The simple pleasures of adulthood

4 days until the end of the first month of 2016, boy oh boy! While it feels like it’s flown by so darn fast, it also feels like it’s been 2016 for quite the while now (and I say that based solely on the fact that the last time I had to write down the current date, I did not make the mistake of jotting down ‘2015’ like I had done for the first 3 weeks of the year).

I’ve been pretty happy with myself over the last year or two because I feel like I’ve taken on a lot of stuff that I believe adults deal with on a daily basis. Paying the bills, or resisting the urge to order take-away to cook a healthy meal instead, or ordering take-away anyway when you realize it’s your freaking hard earned money so you’ll spend it how you want – you know, all that adulthood stuff.

So I got to writing a list of everything I’d done in January this year that really just made me realize that maybe, just maybe, I have this adulthood thing down.

byeadulthood
Given this was my general attitude in the not-too-distant-past, I think I’m doing pretty darn well.

January 2016 Adulthood Accomplishments

  • Deleted all the Step Up movies to free up space on my laptop, with the grim acceptance of the fact that I will (probably*) never be a professional dancer, which was what I initially kept them for.

*You can tell I’m still clinging on to that dream just a little bit though

  • Successfully painted my nails without gagging at the smell of nail polish (my mother would be so proud!)
  • Reached a new relationship milestone with the boyfriend – we’re moving into a new place together, with no other housemates! (Can’t wait for naked Sundays! Though to be fair, it’s not like having housemates ever stopped us, really.)
  • Sat down and created a budget plan on Excel with like tables and center-aligned headings and stuff, like mature adults do
  • Broke down and cried when I realized most of my pay is now going to go into rent and bills and freaking furniture
    tumblr_nq8h4bqfgp1sm6qp8o1_1280
    Obtained from: http://41.media.tumblr.com/

     

  • Used a classy-ass meme from an old-school musical ‘Grease’ released in 1978 (let’s face it, kids today will never come to understand Sandy and Danny’s unbreakable love that served as a beacon of hope to so many loveless young tweens in the 90’s).
  • Learned how to iron a shirt – thank you YouTube for always providing me with ways to be productive, especially at 4 a.m when I can’t sleep
  • Came first and beat my biggest competitor in the Fitbit Who-Can-Walk-The-Most-Steps-Over-A-Week Challenge.

    …Okay, so maybe my opponent was Marcus’ mum, who may be over twenty years older than me, but in my defense, that woman easily walks 15,000 steps a day! To paint a picture of comparison, last Sunday when I checked my Fitbit at 4 pm, Marcus and I had done a total of 655 steps (although, in our defense, it was a ‘stay-in-bed-all-day’ kind of day).

All in all, this January has been pretty darn productive, and I think I’ll reward myself with extra-dessert tonight (and yes, by that I mean a dessert after dessert).

There really aren’t many more things in life that can top that.

do-we-eat-dessert-or-make-love-2
Pft. That should be an easy decision, Homer.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Anxiety Tales: Recap of the Christmas holidays

Welcome to the new year! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful 3 weeks into the new year and a fantastic end of year holiday! I’m still trying to work off the weight I’ve gained over the Christmas period, which is how you can tell I’ve had a good one.

As my family aren’t here with me in Melbourne, I spent Christmas with my boyfriend’s family, which went pretty well, especially if you overlook all those awkward moments that arise when you meet your boyfriend’s entire extended family for the first time, on Christmas day. You know the one – everyone’s sitting there getting caught up with each other, and out of the blue, an uncle (no doubt in an effort to make you feel less like an outsider), looks at you and goes, ‘and what about you, dear? What do you do?’ And for some reason, there’s a hush that goes through the entire room and everyone stops to turn and look at you, cause it’s time to address the giant elephant in the room; a giant elephant that has taken the form of a tiny, doe-eyed 23-year old woman who has intruded into their intimate family gathering.

And obviously me with my little anxiety-ridden heart starts to think of all the different ways one can answer that question – I can tell him about my studies but what if he’s a bit of a jock that never cared about academics and finds me nerdy?! Okay, I can tell him about work – I work in social media! But ugh, what if he’s one of those anti-Facebook, anti-Twitter hipsters who thinks that’s the downfall of society, oh my God he’s going to think I’M CAUSING THE DOWNFALL OF SOCIETY. Okay. No, relax, they’re not going to thi— okay, he’s staring at you. How long have you been thinking? Oh God, they’re going to think Marcus is dating someone mute. Say something. ANYTHING.

‘Yes, I’m well, and what do you do?’

And then I realize what I’ve said, but it’s too late so I run with it and I say, ‘Julie says you work in construction?’

I’m telling you – 9 times out of 10, they forget about the ridiculous Yes / No answer you gave to a non-Yes / No question and they get immersed in talking about their work for a while, so all you have to do is look really interested, and try to squash out that little voice in your head that’s laughing it’s butt off at what just happened. Phew, still – that’s a win.

Tallie 1, Awkward Encounters: 0

This might be something I’ve never really told anyone, but one thing that never fails to make me nervous about these situations is when you first arrive at the house of someone you don’t know to celebrate one of the biggest holidays of the year, and you’re not sure as to how to greet them. Is it handshakes? Hugs? A small wave?! Do I wash and kiss their feet?

And okay, throughout my time in Australia so far, I’ve come to learn that a half-hug with a kiss on the cheek is considered pretty standard. Which is fantastic (cause I’ve mastered that), except you get the occasional freak of nature who wants a freaking handshake, or worse, someone who just doesn’t care about making physical contact with you and just stands there. The problem then arises cause you’ve leaned in forward to go for the kiss and half-hug, and they, after a moment of hesitation and out of sheer politeness, leans in to reciprocate at the exact moment you decide to pull away because you’ve picked up on their reluctance to touch you in any way, shape, or form. Obviously, chaos then ensues, because there really is no way to get out of that situation without one of you fainting to direct attention away from the abomination that was that half half-hug-cheek-kiss-thing.

 

And yes, I will say I did have one of those encounters with Marcus’ uncle (he went in for a handshake – what ridiculous behavior), but I am pleased to say that neither of us fainted, nor did I – in a frantic panic – bend down to start washing and kissing his feet, cause that would have been a situation in which I could not have recovered from.

But no, we ended up spending a good five seconds going back and forth between half-handshakes and half-hugs until we both burst out laughing, and he smacked his hands down on either side of my shoulders to hug me firmly, in that assertive manner that made me breathe a sigh of relief because that awkward moment was finally over and I didn’t kiss anyone’s feet. Winning.

Anywho, Christmas is now over, I’m experiencing chocolate-withdrawal symptoms (and I know some of you can relate to that). I did intend for this post to be more focused on the new year and what I’ve been up to in the last 3 weeks but I might do that over the next few days. Happy 2016, you guys!

 

The Anxiety Tales: Christmas Edition [1]

It’s that time of year! The time to hang up festive lights, hug fat men in red suits, and put gifts under trees that resemble old and overused bristly toothbrushes; yes, that very glorious time of year.

I’m excited. Christmas has never been widely celebrated within my family, but I’ve been lucky enough to have friends from all parts of the world who love celebrating this holiday, which means I’ve had some unique insight as to how people from different countries spend Christmas. I’ve spent it with a German family, who had sausages and drank till they passed out, a Swedish family, who ate mashed potatoes and drank till they passed out, lots of Australian families, who had barbecues and drank till they pass— okay, so maybe not that unique.

Anywho, the last few weeks have been all about the very stressful time leading up to the big day where I have one or two many mental breakdowns as I struggle to find gifts for various people and come to realize I’m a terrible person because I know nothing about what they like.

And then I eventually get to a point where I convince myself that it’s the thought that counts, and I’m sure I hope my God I’m praying they’ll appreciate anything I get them.

ibroughtyouflours_20140331
Yeah, Will Ferrell knows how it’s done.

And then there’s the next phase – you know, the one where you become the Christmas Grinch and decide you don’t care anymore and presents are stupid anyway and why do we even do Christmas gifts when it’s so stressful and you just want to spend the day in bed watching Jessica Jones in peace?!

347d9490-5e99-11e4-aebb-655ff1715cda_christmas-is-cancelled
I feel ya, Steve, I feel ya.

At this point, a friend of mine usually starts offering suggestions while exercising the high degree of patience that you need to have to deal with me during the holidays.

“Maybe you can just bake something for them instead?” and I go “Okay, yeah. I can do that. I like baking.”

strawberry-lemonade-cupcake2
Yeah, alright, I can do this.

Except you know how when you bake cookies for yourself, you just simply don’t care how they turn out, because they’re freaking cookies and cookies are delicious? In fact, most of the time, you don’t even have time to look at them cause you’re busy wolfing them down and the inner you is sitting there going:

cookie-meme
Obtained from: http://funnyand.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Cookie-Meme.jpg

Yet, the minute you plan to gift them to someone, all of a sudden everyone in your life becomes a food critic akin to Gordon Ramsay on Hell’s Kitchen, and there’s expectation that your baked goods need to taste great, look great, and make you forget all about that time when you were six and that bully took your lunch cookie because no other cookie matters or will matter again.

6fd4761c532ac5b9044aac378fc2bad2
Yeah, no pressure.

So you roll up your sleeves, hands trembling slightly, a bead of sweat trickling down your face, and you get baking. And I could (and usually do) end up with near perfect baked goods, but it really just doesn’t matter because regardless of what they actually look like, the inner me is sitting there staring at what smells, looks, and tastes like heaven going:

90cb19a687bdfd775fe8dc122d86610c06acd2a9d7f6c57d3765a5c7f13c3880
Obtained from: http://www.quickmeme.com/

Oh, the joys of Christmas, I tell you.

I’ll be honest – I think the stress of it all in the weeks prior to Christmas does contribute to the day itself being more pleasant, special, and memorable. It’s the countless hours shopping, wrapping, cooking, and cleaning finally paying off; the inner you finally falling back onto their couch going, “Phew. Me: 1, unrealistic Christmas expectations: 0. Till next year, my friend”.

You would think knowing that would comfort me a little, but I did just spend this morning roaming around a shopping mall looking for white and blue tissue paper to stuff the box I’m going to put Marcus’ mother’s present in, because I noticed her house is decorated with a lot of blue and white colors, and therefore, she must like white and blue and absolutely no other color will do.

I also spent a good hour or so looking for white chocolate macadamia nuts, as part of a candy / chocolate nut jar I’m putting together as a gift for Marcus’ dad. White chocolate covered nuts do not seem to be that popular sold on it’s own, so I ended up with a bag of milk, dark, and white chocolate almonds that I plan to sort through to pick out the white ones. On top of that, I also purchased an entire kilo of milk chocolate macadamia nuts as a back up. You know, in case I cannot find the white chocolate ones and I decide the milk chocolate ones might be okay.

… Yeah, okay, I sound a little crazy. But to be honest, I like going above and beyond. It’s stressful, but I enjoy how touched people seem to be when they realize they received much more than a generic holiday gift.

And who knows, they might open their gift, admire the beautifully stuffed white and blue tissue paper, look up at me with eyes of newfound approval and say:

18g529pvs96w4gif

And that would be so worth it.

Happy Christmas shopping, everyone!

An Introduction to the Anxiety Tales

A remarkably few number of people who know me would know I have been struggling with anxiety for a while. Even fewer would know I’m a hypochondriac. And a tiny, very tiny portion of people are aware that I once had an eating disorder. If you’re sitting there thinking I belong in a mental health facility, don’t worry, I’ve been there.

(Well, not literally – I’ve never been to a mental hospital, but the thought has occurred enough times that I’ve got a good mental image of what I want my room to look like.)

All jokes aside, you’ll find it strange to know that overall, I consider myself to be a well-balanced person.

Most people have the impression that those who suffer from mental health issues often spend their evenings cradling their knees back and forth, much like our dear Patrick here.

spongebob-gif
Obtained from http://simulblog.files.wordpress.com

Or at the very least sit at the foot of the bed staring into an abyss with the occasional tear trickling down your face. You know, the way Spongebob does so well.

tumblr_inline_mode8oetca1qz4rgp
Obtained from https://38.media.tumblr.com/

(Is anyone beginning to think Spongebob and Patrick might not be the best cartoons for young children to watch?)

tumblr_m9by8darxi1r1mtsdo1_500
Okay, seriously?

 

Getting back to the point, this most certainly does not paint a clear picture of what it means to have a mental health issue*. It is what a lot of people would think of though, and they would, intentionally or unintentionally, pass judgement for doing so.

The lack of understanding has given birth to a grossly misshapen perception of mental health today that has rendered the typical ‘tentatively-walking-around-you-as-if-on-eggshells-in-case-you-snap-and-start-yelling-at-people’ attitude that general society holds that is all too common, and way too harmful.

Mental health is often considered more trivial and of lesser importance than physical health because people just don’t understand them. What people don’t understand, they start to fear, and what people fear, they start to judge. Sure, that reasoning is fair.

The funny thing is, I’ve found that everybody’s got that bit of ‘crazy’ (for lack of a better word) in them. Everybody has those phases in life where they feel so blue that if they were to be judged against the criteria for depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), they would pass the bill as being clinically depressed. I’ve spoken to people who, when only having known them from the perspective of a colleague at work, have always seemed so put together and … well, mental-health-issue free (relatively), only to then discover that they’re in therapy for bipolar disorder.

It seems like everybody’s got something, or been through something, or knows someone, that allows them to have a better understanding of mental health than they’d care to admit. That’s sad, and very unfortunate. The sad bit being that mental health disorders are becoming (alarmingly) increasingly common. The unfortunate bit being that despite this, people are still so influenced by the stained image associated with it, that all that we’re left with is a bunch of people who would benefit from us dropping this stigma, but who refuse to do so.

So yes, I have anxiety, and if the 20 minutes I spent googling symptoms a few days ago is correct, I probably also have diabetes.

I still love having pancakes for dinner. I still love watching The Walking Dead. I still love rock climbing, I still love researching the latest in nutrition, and I still love cuddles at night with my boyfriend.

Having anxiety doesn’t make me any less of the person that I am.

This is why I’ve decided to write about it. As openly as possible, I am letting it be known what bizarre series’ of thoughts run through the crevices of my mind day in and day out. Hopefully, those that go through the same thing every day can feel a bit happier knowing they’re not alone.

I’m also going to be writing about the normalcy of my day to day life. You know the drill, how I still start out my day with a cup of coffee, talking to my colleagues about how it’s Monday and I’m cranky, or, if it’s not Monday, how it feels like Monday so it might as well be Monday.

I suppose my goal is to make people see that mental health issues can impact anyone, and everyone, from that person who smiled at you on the bus (potentially me), to that person you sit next to at work (potentially also me), or the person who frantically ran up to you asking you for directions to the nearest bathroom and joked about how she has the bladder the size of a pea (most definitely me as well).


 

*I want to make clear that I am only referring to the more prevalent disorders such as depression and anxiety. Those cases where it’s bad enough that it affects day to day life, but not enough so that it stops you from living your life.

Doubt – the good, the bad, the parasitic

Doubt is, at best, an utterly disgusting feeling. It’s when doubt rears it’s ugly head that the once firm, solid ground in which you built your life upon starts to rumble and shake. Well, not really. Not literally. But psychologically, yes.

The absolute worst thing about doubt is that it’s a never-ending cycle that more or less bears all the characteristics of an especially-active parasite – feeding itself while living inside of you; a symbiotic relationship where the host sees no benefit, except perhaps the eventual semi-cool conversation starter, ‘I once had a parasite living in me’. But don’t expect to charm the ladies with that.

Self-doubt is often regarded as one of the most common signs of an anxiety disorder, but is also prevalent in people in general. It ‘undoubtedly’ (haha) stems from the fact that people like to be able to predict, understand, and make sense of everyone, and everything. Our brains are wired to look out for patterns cause they’re familiar. We like to be 100% sure, we want to seek out certainty, we like to know.

And so we have a huge number of fields such as sociology and psychology that look at addressing the way we think and why we do the things we do, in the hopes that we can one day collate all this information and produce a nifty little handbook that tells us what it means to be human.

Except, that’s ridiculous. It’s bizarre how we spend so much time looking into patterns that would ultimately explain human behavior, yet we’re such strong advocates for free will and the claim that we possess the ability to think for ourselves. That’s like saying ‘yes, we’re all autonomous beings, but give me the chance, and I’ll tell you what you’re most likely to do next’ – (continue on to the next paragraph, duh).

The fact of the matter is, doubt is, and always will be, present in our lives. From the bigger questions in life, such as whether you should have quit your job, or whether you should have married this man, to the smaller ones, such as whether you picked the right cheese at the supermarket*, doubt isn’t going anywhere. And to an extent, it’s good to question yourself cause it allows you to see things from more perspectives; it provides the opportunity to gain a more thorough understanding of the decision on hand.

But doubt can become a festering spew of stress, emotional breakdowns, and anxiety when you’re sitting in a limbo of uncertainty, when you’re refusing to make a choice in either direction because quite honestly, you’re so damn scared of making a decision. If you’ve been walking through a desert with no water for days, come across a crossroad, and there’s a house with air-conditioning on your left, and a swimming pool on your right, you don’t just continue standing there under the scorching sun of the desert because you’re not sure which one will cool you down better. You can assess your options, perhaps a few times, but once that’s over, make a decision and stick with it. (Although at this very moment, if you were to ask me, I wouldn’t be able to make that decision. Air-con. Pool. No, air-con. POOL. Okay, that’s final.)

Air-con.

I write this post because sometimes it helps to remind yourself to snap out of it. If it happens to me, it’ll happen to others. And this post today most certainly sums up my head over the last few months. No, I’m not always this way, but yes, I do have anxiety, and when it hits, it hits hard. And given that this pattern of doubt where I question whether I’m doing the right thing, or made the right move, or bought the right cheese has once caused the downfall of a past relationship of mine that otherwise may have succeeded, I’m pretty adamant about it not happening again. And you should be too.

*That was a trick question. The right kind of cheese to buy at the supermarket is all the cheese.

the naive perception that shapes our reality

‘If I could nominate one candidate for “biggest obstacle to world peace and social harmony,” it would be naive realism because it is so easily ratcheted up from the individual to the group level: My group is right because we see things as they are. Those who disagree are obviously biased by their religion, their ideology, or their self-interest. Naive realism gives us a world full of good and evil, and this brings us to the most disturbing implication of the sages’ advice about hypocrisy: Good and evil do not exist outside of our beliefs about them.’

– The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt

I recently had a bit of an un-ladylike fit (which is really my nice way of saying ‘bitch fit’) regarding two of my house-mates, and their notoriously foul cleaning habits. Or lack of.

This has been building up for quite the while now, but I think the kicker was when I had spent a significant chunk of my Friday night doing all the dishes in the kitchen – most of which I had not used, but would have belonged to my boyfriend and I. To top it off, most of the dishes had that dry residue of food that makes it unbearably difficult to clean, although it does make for a very entertaining game of ‘guess-what-they-ate-on-this-plate’. But I carried on, and around half an hour of calorie-burning high-intensity scrubbing later, I was pretty happy with the spotless* kitchen that resulted from my efforts.

(My definition of spotless is pretty… lenient, mind you.)

No, my problem was when I woke up on Friday morning and there was a new stack of beautifully piled dishes that had been undoubtedly harbouring a new species of bacterium from the corners of their room.

This I found unacceptable. So I did what anyone else would, and walked right past them, turning my nose up in the air, proceeding on with my day, and my boyfriend and I went to do our grocery shopping.

Okay, so maybe I did end up washing them after we got back. But that’s not important.

The point is, I’ve been reading a new book lately, of which I have provided an excerpt of at the beginning of this post, and there’s a small section of it that outlines a very similar scenario where the author was living with a few college house-mates and was utterly repulsed at their general dirty lifestyle and lack of respect.

He then goes ‘It took many more years […] but I finally realized what a fool I had made of myself that year. Of course I thought I did more than my share. Although I was aware of every little thing I did for the group, I was aware of only a portion of everyone else’s contributions. […] As with other kinds of social comparison, ambiguity allows us to set up the comparison in ways that favour ourselves, and then to seek evidence that shows we are excellent co-operators.’ (Haidt, 2006:69)

Now, let me make this abundantly clear because this has to be saidI have absolutely no doubt that these house-mates of mine actually contribute very, very little to the overall running of the household. In fact, so sure am I of this that while reading that chapter, I almost got a little offended at how I felt like the author was implying I was not being considerate, and would have gladly written him a letter proposing he spend a few weeks living with us.

But, that chapter did hit close to home for me, at least the ‘me’ that I have been lately. I will not lie when I say that I have been experiencing rather severe anxiety lately, and when this happens, I tend to feel a bit more on edge, a bit more stressed, and way more attuned to anything that can possibly go wrong around me. I have also most definitely taken this out on my boyfriend, for tiny things like not helping out with the household chores enough, or playing video games too much.

Except, I don’t notice that he makes the bed, or folds our clothes, and wipes down the kitchen bench. Maybe not all the time, but he does. Or that he’ll make me a cup of tea, and he’ll always add chilli flakes to my meals because I’m developed an almost unhealthy obsession for them. I’ve got a boyfriend who, despite the fact that I often reveal thoughts to him that most girlfriends would find blatantly horrifying (‘I haven’t pooped in two days, and when I try, I feel like I pulled a muscle – I’m pretty sure it’s a tumor’), still hugs me, reassures me, and calms down my over-active brain every. single. time. he needs to.

So yes, I spent my lunch break today thinking that not only I, but everyone really should make time to put ourselves in other people’s shoes where necessary, and realize that they’re probably trying just as hard as you are in their own way to do their bit.

You know, like my house-mates are.

Hah okay, that was funny. I’m hilarious.

R U Okay?

It’s ‘R U Okay?’ day, and it’s beautiful. For those of you who aren’t too sure on what the day signifies, it’s an annually celebrated day in September – the second Thursday of the month – devoted to spreading awareness about mental health issues, which is fantastic. But what I love most about it is that we’re meant to ask everyone around us, ‘are you okay?’, including the ones that we’d normally overlook because they just always seem to have it so good.

Developing a better understanding of the fact that we’ve all got troubles in our lives is something to celebrate, even though at face value, the concept itself is quite depressing. It helps us better love and understand each other when we see that we’re all fighting the same battle and that we’re all always going through something.

We often see – and complain – about people who we’d describe as ‘having their shit together’, ‘close to perfect’, or ‘happy-go-lucky’. I’m sure it’s pleasant to hear, but doing that creates a divide between yourself and them; they become a being that you can put up on a pedestal only to shoot down with hate and envy. Come on, let’s not deny that, I know we’ve all been there.

Except they’re not. They don’t have their shit together any more than you do, and they’re not closer to perfect anymore than you are. What they do have is the ability to put up walls; to create a sturdy divide between their troubles and the canvas we refer to as our faces. Everyone’s going through something, no matter who they are or what they have. We don’t see it most of the time, mostly because in today’s world, the way in which our lives are showcased are through social media platforms where, let’s face it, is often emblazoned with our highs more so than our lows – pictures and statuses about those nights where we’ve dolled ourselves up and put on our nicest clothes and went to paint the town red on the arm of that guy that everyone thinks is simply gorgeous.

Those nights where you’ve sat at home frustrated about work venting to your partner, those nights you’ve spent curled up in bed crying over your failed relationship with that man you thought you could spend the rest of your life with, those days where you wake up and you’re just not feeling great about you, your body, and who you are – nobody sees those days. Except everyone has them.

So yes, R U Okay? day is a wonderful idea, and it hits close to home. The number of times I’ve had people tell me that I seem like I have everything so good, that everything in my life is always so put together – honestly, thanks, I really appreciate the sentiment, but I can tell you that sometimes, it’s exactly those people who you think don’t need to be asked, that would benefit most from it.

So, are you okay?

*I also know that it’s actually meant to be ‘R U OK?’ day, but it’s always strangely triggered some form of OCD trait in me to see the word ‘okay’ be spelled out as ‘ok’, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. If I did, I don’t think I’d be ok.

… Oh God, it hurts just to look at it.