Steps to Freedom



This is a picture of me from January 2015. When you look at this picture, what do you see? If you think you see a happy, positive, young lady, I’m sorry, but you are mistaken. It’s hard to believe, but a week before this photo was taken, I was in the roughest mental state I have ever been in.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was in high school. It came in waves of severity throughout my early to late teens, but it never felt like this. I was tired. I was scared. I was depressed. I felt hopeless and defeated. I felt incompetent. I felt unimportant. I felt helpless. I thought about my life and whether it was worth even trying anymore. I contemplated ending my life. I was terrified.

At that point, I had a choice: I could continue to feel the way I did, or I could seek help. I asked my boyfriend (now my husband) at the time: Isn’t asking for help a sign of weakness? Can’t I just try to get over this by myself? I am not strong enough if I need help.  Boy, oh boy was I wrong.

On January 23, 2015, I went to my first therapy appointment. I walked into the office with reluctance and fear. I knew what was coming. I would have to talk about how I felt. I would need to dive into my childhood, my thoughts, my actions. The hardest part was, I didn’t want to feel. I was embarrassed about what I felt and thought about myself. What I was more afraid of was what I might say.

I left my first session puffy eyed yet optimistic.  It was like a giant weight was lifted off my chest. My head felt clearer, and I left with the goal to feel better, to be happier. I would try my hardest. I would learn how to successfully curb this depression and anxiety. The harsh reality is, you cannot get rid of it, but you could sure as hell learn how to make it better. To fight for your happiness. Before I started my car and drove to work, I took out my phone and snapped that photo.

For the next year and eight months, I went to see my therapist once a week. Soon my sessions became spread out to once every two weeks, and then once every three weeks. Every month I noticed I was stronger. I learned so much and was able to combat my depression and anxiety better than ever before. What took hours at one point to get over a mental dip I would overcome in minutes. I dove into self-help books. I learned how to shift my negative thoughts into positive ones. I poured my anxiety and stress into positive actions. I started to meditate every day. I went to the gym. I made lists. I wrote in journals. I started a “Gratitude Journal.” I found a love for crafting. It was working. 

I learned how to shift my thoughts from “I should be” or “I can’t” to “I want” and “I am.” I learned how to say,”I am competent” instead of “I am useless.” I learned how to look in the mirror and not hate the reflection looking back at me. I found the beauty in myself. I sang more. I laughed more. I played more. I learned how to accept my past and use it to move on to become a better, happier person. I learned how to cut ties with people and move forward. I learned how to love myself. It was by far and continues to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

What was even more incredible was that I was improving my mental health during what is known to be one of the most stressful times in life. While planning a wedding and going through the entire process, I found myself applying the tools I learned to different situations and coming out a stronger, happier person. I realized that during my conversations with my therapist I was not only telling stories; I was learning how the mind works. I learned that our actions are derived from our thoughts, and you have control. There were times where I felt as if I was in over my head, but I overcame all obstacles that were thrown my way and came out a better, happier, and positive person.

Before my wedding, my therapist and I noticed that our sessions mainly composed of positivity. He would ask me how I was feeling, and I would reply: “I’m great.” A lot of our sessions were filled with silence; we had nothing to say. He had no more tools to teach me. We decided that we would touch base when I returned from my honeymoon to see where we would go from there.

It took almost a month for me to see my therapist after returning from my honeymoon. I didn’t even think to call to make an appointment. It was then when the realization struck.

“You don’t really need me anymore,” he said at our session.

He was right.

We decided that it would be our last session.

The odd thing about the relationship between you and your therapist is that you form it with the intention that it will eventually come to an end. It’s definitely not a normal relationship. You grow to enjoy the person’s company. You see them as a safe place; a place where you can be yourself, express yourself completely with no judgment whatsoever. It’s a bittersweet feeling to end a relationship so positive and so special. I will miss my therapist, but I also accept that it is time to move on. I’ve never been more proud of myself in my entire life.

Having depression, anxiety, or any mental road barriers can be so crippling. It’s so hard to see the light when you’re surrounded by so much dark. If you are struggling, please know that you are not alone —no matter how alone you feel. I’ve felt it, and nothing has ever felt so empty. Know that you are loved, and you are stronger each day you wake up and get out of bed.

Getting help saved my life. There is no time stamp on getting better, and the hard fact is that you are never really “cured.” Battling a mental illness is a daily fight, but you are strong enough. Just remember that.

I look forward to celebrating my “first” birthday as a married woman in a few weeks and to move forward in life with a new perspective, new beginnings. I am stronger than I have ever been, and I am excited to see where life will take me. I am free.

This post was hard to write. I almost deleted it twice times out of fear of judgment from others. If you have a story to share, don’t be afraid. There’s only one you, and your story is important. 



It’s Time to Dig Deep

Has anyone ever told you that you need to “give yourself a break” or “cut yourself some slack”?

Every. Day. I hear it quite often. Lately, I find that I have been the one uttering these phrases to myself, whether it was in front of my bathroom mirror or while taking a few deep breaths throughout the day. Although this is troubling, I find peace in the fact that I’m not the only one who feels this way. In fact, feeling this way isn’t just a common trend in my age bracket, but for all human beings. We put too much pressure on ourselves to succeed. We beat ourselves up over the small things, and are constantly trying to perfect ourselves. We get so busy working towards a better version of ourselves that we lose sight of who we are.  I am very guilty of this, and I decided that it is time for this to change.


As I continue to make goals and work to reach them and find happiness, I have realized something: I am doing this wrong.  I find that if I don’t meet a certain task that I marked for the day, I criticize myself and question my worth. I tell myself, “Yes, I may have gone to the gym today, but I didn’t write a blog post” or “So what if I wrote in my gratitude journal every day this month? I didn’t practice guitar!” I don’t give myself enough credit for what I actually do. I have this constant urge to perfect myself —to always achieve something. I am not embracing who I already am. It’s not right.

I find myself much happier, but I am so pressured to always feel and be happy, and if I am not “happy” at a specific moment, I put myself in a difficult state. I feel that all I worked for was a waste. If I do not do something that I consider a “happiness boost” I let that affect my overall happiness and mood. What I need to tell myself is that those actions make me happier, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t happy, to begin with.

As you have noticed, I have been on the Gretchen Rubin, Happiness Project,
work-towards-creating-a-better-you bandwagon. It has absolutely worked —I owe a lot of my happiness to Rubin and her tips and tricks. I have been reading her books and using what I have learned to better fit my lifestyle. I successfully adopted and completed my theme for 2015: Control, and worked towards battling my anxiety and depression. I have used her books to work towards this year’s theme: Health, and I am happy with the results. Rubin is an amazing writer, and truly a happiness expert. Because of her, I am inspired to write and share my journey to health and happiness with others. I have found, however, it’s the little things that get to me, and that’s what I need to work on.

It hit me one night when I was watching Little Women, one of my favorite movies (and books) of all time. During the scene when Jo first meets Professor Bhaer and they are sitting in his room drinking dark, bitter, coffee, they start to discuss literature and her goals as a writer. They dig deep into their aspirations, struggles, and goals. Jo states: “I am hopelessly flawed.” Professor Bhaer replies: “I think we are all hopelessly flawed.”

In her books, Rubin neglects to write about something I find very important: struggles. Her work lacks the struggles human beings face when achieving our happiness and goals. These struggles can be that one may feel that there isn’t enough time in the day to complete all of their goals, or in my case, there may be psychological barriers that get in the way.

In her books, Rubin touches on a few downfalls she experiences, but she doesn’t dive deep enough; there are only slight mentions. She makes achieving happiness —for her at least— seem so easy. In her case, that is incredible. I am sure it is not easy for her, but it is not as simple for others. How do you achieve all of these things with anxiety, depression,  or both? How do you react when you can’t meet a goal, or find that you didn’t put a nice check mark next to your daily resolutions? Upon asking myself these questions, I told myself: that’s something that I would want to read.

A light bulb then went off in my head and I thought: that’s something I want to write.

Speaking about this with my therapist was enlightening. I have been making strides in battling my inner struggles, but sometimes, I get caught up in my constant need to perfect and succeed. When mentioning the Little Women scene to him and my latest battle with meeting my goals, he said: “You need to be happy with who you are before you try to move forward. You need to work towards meeting yourself where you are now and then focus where you’d like to be.”

I have a constant urge to perfect. I feel that I always have to prove myself, that I have worth, and that I am successful. I continue to push myself to do more and be more, but sometimes it feels like it isn’t enough. It’s a challenge, but not feeling this way is something to strive for. I’ve been buckling under the pressure, and it’s going to take a lot of training to meet myself where I am now, but it’s worth it.

It’s time to dig deep. People aren’t interested in reading personal stories that they can’t relate to. They want to read about someone who embraces human error —someone who isn’t afraid to admit that they are worried about change, or that sometimes they too feel the pressure. What we need are real stories, and people who are brave enough to share them.

That’s where I will come in. I am not anywhere close to perfect, but that’s what I love about myself. That’s what I am excited to share with you.