Self-Care 101: Sunshine

GIRL. (or guy)

Did you know seasonal depression is real, and definitely not something I made up to get out of going to a boring Christmas function? I could never quite put my finger on why it was so hard for me to leave bed from October to March (give or take a few weeks), yet it was easy as pie once the warmer weather rolled around. For a while I thought it was just due to my association of summer with freedom, but now I know it’s a legit thing.

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As we slide into colder weather, our bodies are directly affected by the seasonal change,  i.e. minimal exposure to the sun, our serotonin levels drop. This is important, because serotonin regulates our anxiety and overall mood, and decreased serotonin has been tied to depression. With less sunlight exposure comes decreased Vitamin D, increased likelihood of specific types of cancer, and skin conditions such as acne. Of course, you shouldn’t go outside sans sun protection like hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses, but being in the light more often than not is better for our bodies than staying in.  If you are physically, or mentally, unable to leave the house consider taking Vitamin D supplements and increasing your time with the windows and blinds open. I know better than most that sometimes just leaving the house is far too much to ask. Still, I get closer to being well by cracking open the window.

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So, slather on some sunscreen, run around in your neighborhood, and soak up that good stuff! If you aren’t able to yet, then sit by the window and listen to the world as it wakes back up. Just remember that feeling better after a long winter takes time and create enough space in your mind to be filled up with some joy. Tough? Yep. Good? Definitely.

The Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned In 32 Years

Care to spare a moment for a lady on her birthday?

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When I was a kid – I’m talking Barbie dolls and no crust on sandwiches young – I couldn’t wait to grow up. Despite the ease of youth (something we never appreciate until it’s gone) I thought getting older would afford me the kind of freedom I craved growing up in a small town in Kansas. I could do the things I wanted to do ( stay up late), I could go anywhere I wanted to go (Narnia), and above all else I would be far removed from the trauma of abuse. In my youthful naivete, getting older wouldn’t just be another state of being me, I would be completely and marvelously transformed into a new person. There was nothing I wanted more than to be the distant, powerful me of the future.

Fast-forward to today, and in some ways I’m still chasing that elusive LaKase with all the answers and none of the world’s weight. What’s changed is how I look at the woman I am in the present and the way I appreciate the skin I occupy. There are days that I wish I could be someone – anyone – else. Preferably someone with a little more money and wings. Yet, more often than in the past, I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that there never has been, and never will be, anyone like me on this Earth. Every freckle, every step, every dream, and every trauma I’ve survived is unique to me. There’s nothing anyone can do to rob me of my right to take pride in my journey – and what a journey it has been. I might not literally be a superhero running around slaying dragons, but I’ve come to see myself as someone who is just as formidable as an caped-crusader.

Today, I want to share just a few lessons that have made my journey to 32 more fruitful than that little kid I was could have imagined. I hope each piece of knowledge helps you as go off into the wilds of the world, and steadies your resolve to be who you’re meant to be. Enjoy!

  1. You’re not for everyone. This was a tough lesson for me to learn. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t beloved by those I desperately wanted to impress and often went home dejected. Eventually, I learned to be thankful for the ones who made me feel at home in their presence and in my own skin
  2. It’s never too late to change your life. Change is terrifying , I readily admit it. There are few things in this world more frightening than starting over later in life, especially in a culture that rewards youth at every turn. Throw in the responsibilities of adulthood, and it becomes nigh impossible to hit the reset button.  I’ll be writing about this more, but trust me when I say that you’re never too old, too far behind, or too weak to change the path you’re on. It takes time – and funds – but you deserve it if it’s what you want.
  3. Stop punishing yourself for past mistakes. This point goes hand -in – hand with point 2. For the longest time I believed that all the things I did wrong in the past –  the times I was a bully, the times I lied, the moments I came up short of human decency – meant that I had no right to claim a good future for myself. Now, I think about it like this: I apologize where I can, I look into why I did the things I did and vow to do everything I can to avoid falling into the ugliness of those mistakes again. We’re all people wearing different brands of weighted shoes, trying to figure out how to untie the laces, so go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be who you were if it hurts you or others.
  4. You will encounter people who like to harm and destroy. It’s not your fault if they fix their sights on you. There’s a part of our victim-blaming culture that likes to, obviously, shift blame away from assholes. Rather than looking at a snake for what it is, we often find ways to blame ourselves for being slithered upon. You don’t have to do that. It’s not your fault when cruelty is visited upon you. I’ve finally accepted the reality that sometimes people just like to inflict pain. Now, I no longer feel obligated to make excuses for them and blame myself.
  5. You, my dear, are perfectly made.  Trauma operates insidiously. It creeps into your nooks and crannies, altering the fundamental structures of your psyche. For years, I couldn’t figure out why I hated looking in the mirror, why I felt sick in my skin. After years of work, the answer is quite clear: being abused messed with my ability to see myself beyond the pain. Looking in the mirror was a reminder of the hurt, and of the fact that my body was “damaged”. I’m so thankful to be in a place of relative peace with myself. I was, am, and always will be, just right.

And so are you.

 

What’s Holding You Back From Greatness?

“Who are you to not be great?” – Derek Dixon

I didn’t know how to answer that inquiry. How does anyone answer it without stuttering along? Derek asked me this question – which has haunted me ever since –  when I was wrestling with the cost of taking a chance on pursuing writing. Somewhere along the way I had convinced myself it was a fool’s errand; nothing could really come of putting myself out there. Sure, I might get one or two things right, but in the grand scheme of things it would be pointless. The chances of anyone remembering my name were slim. I told myself all of these things, then got so comfortable with the thoughts that I started speaking them aloud.  Thankfully, Derek decided to leave me gobsmacked instead of letting me chug along.

I think we self-sabotage for a multitude of reasons, but the worst for me is the fear of giving it all I’ve got only to fail. Hours wasted. Shirts ruined from nervous sweating. The potential for becoming a laughing stock. For all those horrible outcomes, I couldn’t see the potential for some good. But, as I grow and open my life up to the world at large, I’ve come to see that those things are beyond my control and that they happen even to the best of us. Some things will never be good enough for the world at large, but that doesn’t have to be a determining feature of what is great for you. More importantly, I’m learning that if we are acting only for the approval of others then we are doomed to disappointment.

I remember a moment of greatness that I never recaptured. I was running track in high school with my Dad as one of my coaches(being able to survive that as a teenager is already a sign of greatness) for the long jump and triple jump. I’m not tall like most jumpers, but my Dad believed with my quickness and strength I could be pretty good. I had a mental block , though, and couldn’t seem to let go enough to trust my body. Back then, jumping 30 feet and up was excellent and my Dad wanted me to hit that mark. So, we went out to the pit and worked for hours. I remember each jump getting harder and harder as I got more and more frustrated. Finally, my Dad just said this:

“This is your last jump. Now, get it.”

He looked at me the way he always looks at me in those moments – not quite angry but determined not to let me get in my own way – then walked to the edge of the pit. The sun was setting in orange tones behind the bleachers and I was covered in sweat in sand. I took a breath, leaned back, then exploded forward. My fear of hitting the sand, getting hurt, letting Dad and myself down, the implications of doing this and never doing it again, it all fell away.

And I did it. My Dad punched the air and hollered “Yes!” when I hit the mark. I sat back on my heals in the sand, smiling in relief and pride. I never hit that milestone again, much to my own dismay back then, but now that moment is keeping me focused on what can happen in life when we forget all consequences.

I go back to that moment often to remind myself a few things:

  1. People will – and do – love me enough to push me towards success, and I am worthy of that.
  2. I did it once, I can do it again. I never hit 30 ft again, but I can hit other milestones in my life if I let go, breathe, and run like I’m free.

Greatness doesn’t mean never being last ever again, it doesn’t mean everything is perfect. For me, greatness can be a moment of light, a success you never saw coming, but went after regardless. Sometimes a failure in itself can be greatness, not because you failed so spectacularly, but because you chose to act despite the potential for a loss. Maybe you won’t do it today, or even tomorrow, but I hope you’ll get to a point where you chase your greatness down. Know that you’ve got a cheerleader waiting in the wings for that moment.

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World Mental Health Day: How I’m Working To Empower Myself

When you’re struggling with your mental health, every day becomes a battle to stay afloat. You never know which interaction is going to propel you forward with confidence, or which has the potential to stop you in your tracks. There are days when the smallest of set-backs can become roadblocks to your healing journey. I have learned that by doing a few little things each day to fortify myself for the bad days, getting back up from a fall can be easier than I previously thought possible.  In honor of World Mental Health Day, I want to share the little habits I’ve picked up that are really helping me to redefine my worth and move forward with a new kind of confidence that I have so been missing in my journey.

No more calling myself “crazy”

I think this is an easy habit to fall into, as anyone or anything deemed to be difficult is quickly smacked with this label. In particular, it is usually leveled at women who do not conform to what makes men comfortable.  There have been many times I’ve whispered this to myself with derision after failing to get this whole perfect life thing right. It’s not only unfair, but a particularly cruel way to invalidate the pains and triumphs of living with authentic vulnerability.  No more, I say!

I’m committed to talking about what I do – and don’t – need

I was raised by two very polite people who instilled in me an almost pathological desire to keep the boat from rocking. I’m thankful to them for the ways they’ve modeled kind and caring behavior, however now I am working to unwind myself ever so slightly from this fear of letting people down. Being a considerate person is a wonderful quality, yet when you’re unwilling to do what’s best for your mental health can anyone really win? Nowadays, I am doing my best to say yes when I mean it, and no even if it might disappoint the one making the request. It seems everyone in my life is better off because of it.

I say my name proudly

Folks with spicy names will get me when I say this: no more watering down my name to make others happy. I can scarcely remember a day that didn’t involve someone stumbling over the schematics of my first name. They get a confused look, turn up their noses, and sometimes even scoff at the ridiculousness of me not being named something easily digestible like Rachel (no shade to girls named Rachel). I used to get so embarrassed that I would quickly encourage people to call me Kasey or Kase, or I would laugh along with them. Can you imagine what that does to a young person, always trying to make others comfortable? It’s a nightmare. I can’t remember the exact moment things changed, but rather the growing rage that made me say enough is enough. My father carefully chose my name to honor his sisters, and I am happy to have it. Just that simple act of wearing my name with pride as changed the way I look at myself in the mornings and how I carry myself. There’s a wonderful kind of joy in reclaiming something so simple.

 

My journey has taught me that a lot of the struggles tied to my mental health involve the way others will perceive me and how those perceptions shape my confidence. It’s truly never too late to shake things up, especially when it comes to how you’re going to take care of yourself. These are just a few of the little ways I’m trying to help myself along each day, but they have made a marked difference in my life. I hope you are able to find ways in your own life to protect and foster your own mental health.

 

 

Shame As Explained By The School Of Life

Have you ever been enjoying your life – perhaps laughing with friends – when you feel overwhelmed with the desire to hide from the world? Perhaps sometimes you feel bad, wrong even, for merely existing? It’s difficult to pin down where these feelings come from if it feels as though they’ve always tailed you, just a few steps behind to ruin a good time or justify the bad.

Lately, when I’m struggling to name the emotions which drive me to sadness or joy I turn to the video essays produced by The School of Life. The organization produces videos, essays, and classes dedicated to unraveling the complexities of the human psyche. I hadn’t considered the nature and root of shame until this video from The School of Life. After watching, I could see how trauma and cruelty had twisted me away from the truth that I am not something to be ashamed of, but rather someone to be loved and valued. I highly recommend watching the video below, then working with a therapist to unpack the ways you have found yourself bound in shame.

 

If you enjoyed this video from The School of Life, I suggest you subscribe to their channel for more information to aid in your journey.