Saturday, December 1, 2018

Love Should be Conditional

This will most likely be an unpopular opinion piece. So be it.

I have never believed in the concept of unconditional love. It doesn't sit well with me. It doesn't seem right.

But I've talked to many friends about it, & most view it as the truest, purest form of love.

I still disagree.

I believe that love SHOULD be conditional. You should love someone on the conditions that:

-They love you back.
-They respect you.
-They trust you.
-They are loyal to you.
-They value you.
-They would never do anything to intentionally hurt you.
-They are kind to you.
-They are considerate of your needs & support you.

I feel that these conditions are fair. I feel that they are just. They are equal & reciprocal. They should be amendable.

And I feel that if these simple conditions are unmet, you don't have to love that person.

It seems that many people think you should give love freely. I don't disagree. But if someone won't love me as freely as I love them, I'm not going to waste my time by continuing to love them & give when all they do is take. In my opinion, this is idiotic & self-destructive.

Rather, you should give kindness freely. Kindness can be bestowed upon anyone you meet, a stranger or even an enemy, & it should be. But love, to me, is a more serious investment & a relationship to that person, which does not apply to everyone.

I feel that unconditional love can be used as an excuse to stay stagnant and not change, still expecting others to love you for who you are. But if you can't become a better person, a better version of yourself, continuously improving, then why should anyone go out of their way to love you when they're putting in all of the work and you're putting in nothing? That's one sided.

I do believe you should love someone flaws and all, on both their best day & their worst.  You should love the person as a whole, in their entirety. But that does NOT mean unconditionally.

I feel that many people think that loving family is an obligation. (Ever heard the saying "Blood is thicker than water."?) Throughout my life, I have been detached & estranged from my biological mother. People don't understand this. They tell me things like, "You should love your mother!" "How could you not love her!? She gave birth to you! She created you! She raised you!" "How dare you hate your mother!" "You need to forgive her!"

I do not hate my mother. I don't truly hate anyone. Hatred takes energy & negativity that I don't have. I may throw the term "hate" around loosely & jokingly, & I do have a strong dislike for certain things. But no real hatred.

I do forgive her for all of the abuse & neglect she put me through. She is deeply mentally ill, & has been for decades. I don't feel that all of it was conscious or her fault. It's the illness's fault. And I do believe that forgiveness is necessary, but for you, not for the other person. You need to let go of that hurt & move on before it consumes you. You can't heal, make progress in life, or grow until you do. And in terms of my mother, she isn't fully aware of the extent of the pain she caused me. "Forgive them for they know not what they do."

I do acknowledge that she did the best she could with what she had. I grew up poor, with food stamps & section 8 housing. We didn't have much, but she made sure the utilities were always paid & we had food on the table, even if that meant we went to a food bank or church to get it.

So I have empathy for my mother. I understand why she is the way she is. And I'm grateful for the good in her. But I do not love her. I cannot love her.

I cannot love someone who is toxic. I cannot love someone who is abusive & destructive. I cannot love someone who has no regard for others. I cannot love someone who refuses help & support. I cannot love someone who doesn't have love for him/herself.

Instead, I am indifferent towards her & I pity her. And that's just how it is.

She will never change. She is beyond saving. And I've accepted that.

There's no use in trying to love her when it is unsafe for me. When I tried to maintain a relationship with her, it threatened my own sanity, emotional wellbeing, & mental stability.

That is not worth it.

And it makes my heart heavy. It pains me. It fills me with sorrow. I wish I could have a normal mother/daughter relationship with her, but I can't. She is not a healthy person. She refuses to see a Psychiatrist or Therapist, heck, she won't even got to a regular medical doctor! She resists all help & functions as a ticking bomb waiting to go off. It is too dangerous for me to even be around her because she is so explosive, volatile, & completely unpredictable. So I can't risk my own safety by being around her. And my intention isn't to hurt her or make her sad, but protect & preserve myself. And the only way I can do that is by staying away from her. It's an incredibly hard plight that most people don't understand, but it's my life.

Some people are still able to love their abuser. This is known as "Stockholm Syndrome," or in clinical terms, "traumatic bonding." But this is usually a means of survival because they cannot escape the hold of their captor and they are trying their best to cope.

This is not something I possess. I was able to escape, to become my own person, & to leave my abuser behind. And I feel that I am stronger and more resilient because of it. But I am not capable of unconditional love.

Perhaps this is a distinct part of my personality or nature. I have a tendency to detach & disassociate easily from others. I can fall in love with you instantly, but lose that love just as quickly. Maybe I developed this skill as my own survival mechanism to shield myself from harm, or maybe it's an inherent quality. Either way, it's how I interact with others in the world. If our love is mutual, you can remain in my life. If not, I let go, disconnect, & move on.

After reading this, you may view me as a victim of my past or as a creature of circumstance. You may completely disagree with me. And that's okay.
But try to see my point of view.

On the other hand, if you see my side & agree, then begin letting go of unconditional love. It's an outdated, overrated clichΓ© that can be more harmful than helpful. Begin to recognize your value & your worth and implement those conditions into your relationships. Ever since I have, I am surrounded by friends, the family I've chosen, who are healthy & supportive, & they enrich my life rather than try to destroy it.

Thanks for reading. <3

Friday, August 24, 2018

Please, Don't React; Respond.

Please, Don't React; Respond. 
4 Ways Not to React to Someone who's Depressed or Going Through a Crisis 
(& Healthier Alternatives)

[This article is currently featured on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) online blog. Click here to check out their condensed version:]

        Through my experiences with conversations, and as a person who lives with chronic depression, it has come to my attention that many people don't know how to provide comfort or respond appropriately in times of need. Instead of listening to what's being said & taking the time necessary to digest it, reflect on it, then proceed with a constructive response, people jump to conclusions & say the 1st thing that comes to mind, or in other words, they react. But, many times, this can be unhelpful, or possibly even detrimental &/or destructive to the person that is in distress. See, when you react, there is no tact. In order to respond, you must think beyond the initial reaction.

         Therefore, to try & resolve this common dilemma, I thought I'd come up with a list of reaction pitfalls to avoid & healthy ways of responding. I am inspired to create such a list by communication theorists, such as Carl Rogers, the creator of Client-Centered Therapy (*Search for “Unconditional Positive Regard” “Empathic Attunement,” & “Acceptance.”), psychologist & couples counselor Gary Chapman, who authored The Five Love Languages, & Virginia Satir, who identified 4 unhealthy forms of communication (i.e. Blaming, Placating, Computing, & Distracting) as well as hypothesized a solution, A.K.A. "Leveling." For more information on her studies & ideas, you can check out her book The New Peoplemaking. Mine are very similar to hers, but rather, they’re situational, & I break them down into specific categories with concise details & examples.

       Yes, personally, I am educated & trained as a psychotherapist. But these suggestions are simple & can help any layperson communicate more empathically & effectively.

Without further ado, here are the 4 reactions to avoid:

1 - Dismissing/Minimizing - This happens all of the time. Someone comes to you upset or with a problem, & the first thing you say is "Could be worse." Or, "It's not even that bad." One step further, you bring up a story that happened to you or someone you know & compare/contrast. This is not helpful. It just makes the person feel bad for mentioning what they're going through, negates their problem, & makes it look as if they’re complaining & whining. People, especially those of us who suffer from depression, want to feel heard & understood. Being dismissive or minimizing the problem makes it seem as if it doesn't matter, which only makes us feel more alone & like a burden to others.

Another way of being dismissive is being too cheerful or overly optimistic. Saying things like "Just think positive!" Or, "Look at the bright side!" Or trying to cheer the person up by making a ton of jokes or changing the subject. If a person is feeling down, this will only make them feel like you can't see where they're coming from or are too uncomfortable yourself to discuss their sorrows. Being superficially happy is not a solution. Being realistic & supportive is.

2 – Gaslighting -
The definition of "gaslighting" is when you make someone feel crazy by discrediting them & making them doubt themselves. The way this is most often done to depressed individuals is when they hear phrases like, "It's all in your head!" "You're choosing to feel this way!" "You're making this up!" “There's nothing wrong!” "Stop being so negative!" "Stop pitying yourself!" "Stop feeling sorry for yourself!" A person who is depressed or facing a crisis is NOT choosing to! Depression is a mental illness, a chemical imbalance in the brain, a disease just like Diabetes or Asthma & should be recognized as such. People who face depression already feel crazy! They usually have excessive guilt & shame, feel hopeless &/or helpless, have low self-esteem, feel like a burden to everyone they know, have little or no motivation, lose pleasure &/or interest in activities they once enjoyed, experience weight loss or gain as well as insomnia or hypersomnia (not sleeping much/at all vs. sleeping too much), feel incredible loneliness or start to isolate, & may be beginning to see life as not worth living because this exhaustion & pain becomes unbearable! NONE of this is a choice, but it is all a part of the condition. These are the symptoms, & making comments like these is not only insensitive, but emotionally abusive & neglectful.

To top that off, making statements like “You're being overdramatic!” or “You're such a crybaby!” are cruel & can make things worse. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. Do NOT gaslight. You may think you're giving them “tough love,” a “reality check" or snapping them out of their funk, but this type of language is incredibly inconsiderate and does more harm than good.

3 – Playing the Devil's Advocate/Challenging -
This, at first, can be done with the good intention of changing a person's perspective or helping them to see more clearly. But if done carelessly or with persistence, it can become argumentative & damaging. For instance, say someone tells you about a friend that they feel slighted them or betrayed them. After you listen to their story, you start relating to & defending their friend's actions. Sure, maybe you think their friend didn't do anything wrong or malicious. That's fine, & you can express that, maybe offer some clarity. But if you go out of your way to analyze the story and identify with their friend, you're now taking sides & undermining their experience, making them feel like their point of view is insignificant or invalid. They came to you & told you the story because they were hurt & searching for support, not for you to overlook their take & ignore their feelings.
The only time I really see this as being helpful is if someone is thinking irrationally or delusionally. Otherwise, it's unnecessary.

4 - Unsolicited Advice
This is one of the most common ones and I really dislike it. Humans, naturally, are fixers. When someone comes to us with a problem, it can be our first instinct to solve it. But giving advice when it isn't requested can be rude, especially if you're not well informed, qualified, or familiar with the person's situation.

Very often, those of us who are feeling crappy just want to vent & release our frustrations. We don't always need help, just a listening ear to hear us out. If we ask for it, give the best advice & guidance you can! But if not, don't assume we need it & can't figure things out on our own. Perhaps you're trying to be helpful, but sometimes it's just insulting & not useful. Plus, if we're stuck inside of our minds all of the time, we've probably thought of all possible scenarios & decisions we could make & forged a plan.

Now that we've identified the unhealthy reactions people commonly make, here are some healthier alternatives:

Validating - As humans, we all seek validation. We want to feel like others hear & understand us. We want comfort & consolation. Instead of resorting to the reactions above, try saying things like, "I'm really sorry you went through that." "That must have been tough." "Gosh, that sounds stressful." "Wow, that's harsh." "You've been through a lot." Responses like this mirror feelings and show that you've been listening, you really do care, & you're acknowledging & imagining what they've been through.

Relating - Another basic human need we have is for empathy & compassion. We want to feel like others can walk in our shoes & empathize with our struggles. We want to feel like others can relate to & connect with us. If someone tells you about how a recent breakup has devastated them, this is an opportune time to tell them about a devastating breakup you had. Use your lived experience & wisdom to help them through their hard time, to show them they're not alone, & that they can recover. (To improve your skills in validating & relating, consider furthering your knowledge by doing research on “active listening" & “empathic responding.”)

Reframing -  This can take more skill, but those who are depressed tend to look at life through a negative lens. Help restore the accuracy of their lens. If they make a statement like, "I'm a failure," rephrase it in a more realistic way. "No, you had a setback. But it's a lesson learned, & now you can try again." Or, "No, you struggled to get the results you wanted. But that doesn't define you." You can also compliment them by reinforcing their strengths, skills, & accomplishments. Maybe they say something like, "I'm ugly, no one will ever want me." And you can assure them how beautiful they are, or mention how you know others admire them.

Having a Sense of Humor
If you're not being insensitive by changing the subject, but making a horrible situation hilarious, that can definitely be a great way of lightening the mood! But really assess the needs of who you're talking to & identify their communication style. Do they like to laugh things off? Or would they prefer you be serious & keep it real with them? Only YOU will know based on previous conversations. (Or you can always ask. Everyone has different needs @ different times.)

Encouragement/Instilling Hope - As previously explained, dealing with depression can make one hopeless. Their future may seem bleak to them, their view of the world may be shrouded in darkness. But you can help them see the light. We all need reassurance. Let them know things will be alright and turn out okay. Let them know that you are there for them & will support them every step of the way. Help them keep the faith alive, & remind them that there are resources out there for them if ever needed. Mental health services (i.e. therapy, psychiatry) & support groups are available (i.e. NAMI, DBSA, etc.) and you can refer them to these if they're interested. If you're willing, you can even offer to take them or accompany them so they're not alone & can see your support through your actions rather than your words.

Thanks for Reading. <3

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Sun & Moon

For my sweetheart,

"The Sun & Moon" 

You're the Sun, ☀️
& I'm the Moon. πŸŒ™
I'm November,
& you're June.

We're the opposites that attract,
But our sameness holds us intact.

You're bright, fiery, frenetic,
bold, beaming, energetic.πŸ”₯
I'm the mystic, amassing sea,
feelings flowing deep through me. 🌊

You're the warmth of the flame, at its core;
I'm cool, fresh water, reaching the shore.

You're the shining exuberant day,
up with busyness & play.
I'm the sparkling starry night,
ideas alive & at flight.

You're the beacon at the highest arc,
I'm the light that glows within the dark.

Though different, we both have a tendency towards growth & change.
We're yin & yang; the complementary ends of a spectrum, a range. ☯️

On a rare occasion, our pattern flips,
& when the time is right, we eclipse. 🌘

You're the Sun, ☀️
& I'm the Moon. πŸŒ™
You're the horizon
I'm the dune.

We're the opposites that attract,
But our sameness holds us intact. 

Thanks for reading. ❤

Friday, March 30, 2018

An Insomniac's Letter to their Lover

Dear Lover,

Of course, I've been up these past few nights thinking about writing this. That's just my nature, I guess.

I'm sorry that I won't ever be able to enjoy falling asleep next to you. You always say you love falling asleep and waking up next to me, and I wish I could share that sentiment, but it's possible I may never be able to.

You see, at night, sleep evades me. I'm not normal, I'm far from it.

I envy how easily you lie down, close your eyes, and drift into dreamland while I lay awake beside you.

Sometimes I watch you sleep, admiring your good looks, sexy physique, and how peaceful you are. But I continue to toss and turn, shifting positions to get comfortable, staring at the wall and planning the next day or processing past hurts.

What seems so simple for you and most people is so difficult for me.

And so you sleep all night and wake up refreshed, ready to start the day. I can't even fathom what that's like. I feel as if I'm always in a constant state of tiredness. I'm chronically fatigued, and I hope I'm not doomed to feel this way for the rest of my life.

And so I'm sorry that you have to witness me sleep all day. While the world is resting, my mind is running nonstop. So many sleepless nights lead me to desperately reach for sleep during the day, the only time it comes to me, the only time I can actually catch it. And it leaves you puzzled and confused and takes away the time we get to spend together. I'm practically nocturnal to say the least.

I don't know if things will ever be different for me. I've tried medications and nothing seems to work. But just know, even though it's hard for me to fall asleep next to you, it's not you, it's hard for me to sleep next to anyone. It's hard for me to sleep even when I'm alone. And though it's a little bit more of a struggle when I'm next to you, I'm willing to keep trying, because I'd rather wake up with you feeling exhausted then wake up without you at all.

Keep dreaming on, my love. And maybe one day, I'll be able to feel as rested as you do, so we can take on the world together.

Thanks for Reading. <3

Sunday, February 11, 2018

New Love

Welcome back to my blog!

So, if you've read my previous post, you might have seen that I was in a dark place at the time. Depressed, lonely, heartbroken, all because I was abandoned by a friend I fell in love with.

Well, he didn't speak to me for a whole 5 months, but finally reached out to me the day before New Years Eve.

He did apologize and explain his rationale for ghosting me, but this didn't save our friendship, it ended it, which was for the best.

But between then and now, something miraculous happened:

I found someone new, and fell in love again!

It all started in November. I decided to go clubbing with my childhood friend America. We hadn't been dancing in ages! We had been wanting to go for a while, but our schedules always clashed. :(

Alas, one weekend, she said she was free, so we immediately made plans to go out!

Before we went inside the nightclub, I made a disclaimer. I said that I would promise not to ditch her, (because I'm not a sh*t friend like that) but that I had been very lonely and depressed lately, and if I met someone, I wanted to dance dirty with them. I asked if she'd be okay with this, and she agreed she would. (She read my prior blog post too, so she knew what was up!)

Mind you, I didn't actually expect to meet anyone that night. My hopes were set low, and I just planned on enjoying dancing for a bit with my homegirl.

But sure enough, there he was.  .  .

I saw this gorgeous, thick, cutie perusing the dance floor. He came with friends to celebrate a birthday, but he was dancing alone and caught my attention!

I immediately commented to America, "Who is that cutie dancing by himself?"

She replied, "I don't know, but maybe you should go dance with him!"

To which I comically retorted, "I don't know, I'm not sure if he's buying what I'm selling!"

I wasn't sure if he had noticed me or was into me, but I continued watching him for a few moments before I did what my brave self usually does and went over to him to make my move.

Next thing I know, we're dancing together, introducing ourselves, and it starts to get a little hot and heavy.

His hands move down to my waist, then to my hips, his lips on my neck, and we're just grinding in the club. It was like a scene from a 2000s Hip-Hop music video!

We exchanged numbers, said our farewells, and I rejoined America to go to Denny's and catch up until 4 in the morning!

Now, whenever you meet someone at a club, you don't expect it to go anywhere. I've exchanged my number to a few guys after meeting them on a dancefloor, and almost 99.99% of the time, you never hear from them again.

But this time was different. We had been texting each other all day! And we wanted to meet up for a real date!

I thought I wouldn't be able to see him for an entire week, but I happened to be free after catching a movie with my girl Haley that Saturday night, so I told him we should grab some ice cream.

We did, and we started dating right after that, and a couple of months later, we made it official!

I love how life has magical moments like this. I remember my bestie Melina telling me, "Look how much has changed for you in the span of a year! You are with a new man, living in a new apartment, and I'm so happy you're in a relationship again!"

It's true. Soooo much has changed within a year. And I'm in a much better and happier place now. 

I've managed to cut out all of the toxic people that remained in my life. And now, all that's left are the amazing ones. I'm surrounding by the best of friends who are so supportive and nurturing, and now I have a new man as the cherry on top. My life finally feels complete. (I told my therapist this before we ended treatment and she said she had goosebumps, she was so happy for me! It was very touching.) 

My sweetheart is so warm. Unlike my past relationships and the many men I dated last year, he is so tender and affectionate. He holds me and kisses me every chance he gets, and this is always sure to make me melt. <3

He is so appreciative. If you've read some of my earlier posts from further back, you know my primary love languages are "Physical Touch" and "Words of Affirmation." I need to constantly be reassured and told how much someone cares and loves me. I want to know how much I mean to them. He always makes an effort to tell me how grateful he is to have me in his life. When he said he loved me for the first time a few weeks ago, I cried tears of joy, knowing that he truly meant it, and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. He pulled me in close and whispered in my ear, "You make me feel incredible," it was so sweet and profound. 

He is so fun! Unlike a majority of the men I've been with, he's not afraid to make a fool of himself and play around! My exes were so flat, uptight, quiet, and robotic! Never able to let loose and have a good time! It's so refreshing to be with someone who knows how to laugh at themselves and not take life too seriously! (We can do Karaoke together! That's something I've NEVER been able to do with anyone I've dated!) 

Though we're still in the early phases of our relationship and have only been together for a few months, I've already had some of the happiest moments of my life with him, and I'm looking forward to many more! 

Not too long ago, my mentor and friend, Ariel, told me that once you meet the right person, you'll see how wrong everyone else you've been with was for you. And so far, this is ringing true. Every time I thank my man for treating me right, he always tells me, "This is how you've always deserved to be treated." 

I think I've found a keeper. :) 

Thank you so much for reading. And have a Happy Valentine's Day! <3