Why Vegan?

WARNING: There will be graphic images in this post.

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Did you know that it takes 660 gallons of water to make a 1/3 pound burger? Did you know that animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually? Fracking only uses a range of 70-140 billion gallons annually. Crazy right?

I am about to hit my seven month vegan anniversary this week and I wanted to post about my reasons and experiences on why I made the switch. I have had lots of questions, lots of confused looks, lots of arguments, and lots of jokes thrown my way because of my lifestyle. So let me tell you why I chose this path.

There are many different reasons why people become vegans. There are health reasons, animal rights activism, moral issues, environmental concerns, and countless others that lead people to eat only plant-based products.

For me, it’s a combination of those reasons.

I had my first exposure to the vegan lifestyle a little over a year ago when my boyfriend’s family decided to make the switch. At first I was confused and hesitant to accept their choice but once they explained to me their reasons, I tried to explore more with them. I made a completely vegan tart for Thanksgiving 2015 and I ate meals with them that they had made (which were so delicious!).

For a long time I remained hesitant to make the switch, knowing that as a broke college student, I could be easily swayed by cheap food and easier recipes. However, after a serious battle with severe depression during the fall of 2015 I realized that I perhaps was contributing to my unhappiness by not taking care of myself. I have had struggles with eating disorders before and food had always been an enemy of mine. There were times where I wouldn’t eat for days and then there were times when I ate so much all I could do was sleep the rest of the day. Either way, my eating habits were incredibly unhealthy and were a large factor in my overall mentality on life.

So on January 1st, 2016 I decided that I was going to make the switch and live as a vegan. I cut everything cold turkey. All meats, all cheeses, milks, eggs, creams, leather, silk, suede, and everything. No animal products of any kind. It was extremely hard at first to manage the cravings that I had for cupcakes and burgers and doughnuts and cookies (I have a huge sweet tooth, can’t you tell?). But little by little I embraced my new lifestyle. I fell in love with it actually. I felt so much healthier and so much better. I lost 10 lbs the first two months of my new lifestyle which made me feel amazing! I also gained a greater compassion for all creatures. I used to hate spiders and insects of all kinds and kill them on sight. Now, I usually leave all spiders be and maybe even give them words of encouragement to go after the damned mosquitoes, and I relocate bugs outside instead of squishing them. I fell even more in love with my dogs and cats. I grew to be more compassionate towards all creatures great and small. I even grew to be more spiritual with the rhythms of the world and its creatures.

I saw such positive changes in my life since I made the switch. I can never see myself returning to eating meat ever. The very thought of it makes my stomach churn. One of my biggest motivators for staying the course is compassion. Animals are living, breathing, thinking, and feeling beings that deserve life.  And after researching and seeing the havoc that meat wages on ones body and the havoc that animal agriculture wages on our earth, I have all the motivation I need to keep going.

I recently had an experience that put fuel on my fire to continue to be vegan and to spread the lifestyle to others.

Story time! This past weekend I was traveling up to Chicago with my boyfriend and his family to go to the Chicago Vegan Food and Drink Festival in Grant Park. We all left early on the morning of the festival and started the drive up. While we were on the highway, we passed 4 huge 18 wheeler trucks carrying hundreds of live turkeys. I looked out my window in horror as we based by the trucks. Turkeys crammed into cages smaller than an iPad, their feathers flying into the windshields of the cars so unfortunate as to be behind the trucks. Beautiful birds that had bald patches all over their bodies, that had their beaks clipped, their lives taken away. Some turkeys were actually dead, their necks hanging limply out of the cages and banging against the sides. One of my fellow travelers and I were moved to tears after passing the trucks, knowing that each one of those birds was bound to end up on someone’s kitchen table. turkeytransportation

This is just an example photograph because I was so disgusted I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture. But this is the reality. I have seen this in person. No being deserves this kind of treatment for any reason.

This is what keeps me vegan. Knowing that I did not cause any animals to suffer, knowing that I could maybe, just maybe, end this kind of abuse or at least inspire others to become vegan.

 

PIGS-5

It happens with pigs too. And cows and horses and chickens and goats. 

I will say, it is still hard, especially since the country and the culture that I live in is so meat centered. When you think of America you think of bald eagles, beer, and barbecue. But did you know you could do beer and barbecue and not have to eat dead flesh??? Plant based proteins are wonderful and a lot of different companies are starting to introduce more and more products. Tofu, seitan, and tempeh are fantastic meat alternatives. Beans and legumes provide protein. You can also make milk, cream, and ice cream out of almonds, coconuts, cashews, soy, and hemp. And the good thing about vegetables? You can eat a whole lot of them and not consume thousands and thousands of calories. I had barbecued pulled jack fruit, collard greens, and corn on the cob the other night and I must say, eating vegetables is the best. Everything was so delicious.

So, those are my reasons, my motivators. Becoming vegan was one of the best decisions I have made in a while. I implore you to think about making the change. If you are interested in any more information or want to do some more research before making the switch, I highly recommend watching these films and visiting these sites. All of these films can be found on Netflix.

Cowspiracy–http://www.cowspiracy.com/

Forks Over Knives–http://www.forksoverknives.com/

Vegucated–http://www.getvegucated.com/

Fed Up–http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home

Food, Inc. –http://www.takepart.com/foodinc

 

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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Vons Shops in West Lafayette. One of my favorite places and one of the places I will miss the most. 

Ok, so not the real Yellow Brick Road but I thought this Elton John song title was the perfect title for this post. And Elton John is flat out amazing.

Although my name is not Dorothy and I don’t have a dog named Toto, and I’m not trying to find the Wizard, I am saying goodbye to a place that has been my home for the last three years.

I first came to West Lafayette in 2013 when I was just starting out as a freshman in college. I remember my dorm move in day like it was yesterday. It was so foggy on the drive up and I only had one van load full of belongings that a group of volunteers unloaded and brought to my dorm room for me. My dad and I had lunch at Subway and walked around the campus a little bit. I met my dorm mate and slept for the first time in my dorm at college as a student. It was pretty nerve racking to be in a new place that was unfamiliar and different.  But soon, West Lafayette became my home. I had a boyfriend who lived in an apartment about a mile from my dorm, I was doing well in classes, I had a five year plan, I was happy. I applied to and got into a study abroad program in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year and went to China for a month. That trip was one of the best trips of my life.

When I came back I moved into an apartment with the aforementioned boyfriend and moved up from having a van load of belongings to a 10 foot truck load plus some change stuffed into the back seat of my mom’s car. I furnished and decorated a two bedroom apartment and very excitedly started a new life and a new year at college.

Unfortunately, my relationship did not work out well and my boyfriend and I split after only living together about three months. So he moved out and I started my life living alone. I met my now current boyfriend and we started a wonderful romance and I got used to being on my own. I finished my sophomore year strong and applied and got into another study abroad program and went to Trieste, Italy for a month in the summer of 2015. That trip was also one of the best trips I have ever taken and to this day I still have strong feelings for Trieste and I long to go back.

When I got back from Italy, I then moved to my current apartment and moved up again from having a 10 foot truck load of belongings and some change to a 15 foot truck and some change. My new boyfriend and I moved from a two bedroom apartment to a one bedroom apartment right across the street (the one bedroom was about $300 cheaper than the two bedroom). We built our lives together in this apartment and we enjoyed our time together but we had our ups and downs. I struggled severely in the first semester of my junior year of college due to inexplicable physical pain and distress.

Due to said pain I took second semester off to figure out the root cause. In February of 2016 I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel. At that point I was working 45 hour weeks at a bookstore and was living paycheck to paycheck, barely making ends meet, and barely finding time to manage and deal with the pain I was in.

So here I am, four months after my diagnoses, and I have to make a pretty tough decision. Stay in the city that has been my home for three years and where most of my friends are and where my university is and struggle with coping with my daily pain levels and making doctors appointments, or moving back in with my parents and focusing on handling my illnesses. After much thought, I decided to move back in with my parents.

So I am saying goodbye to my home for the last three years, goodbye to my apartment, and goodbye to the life that I have made here. I have mixed feelings about this move and about these goodbyes because I know I am doing what’s best for my health but I am also leaving so much behind. I’m leaving my job that I absolutely loved, I’m leaving my friends, and my second family that I have made here, I’m leaving my university and putting my education plan on hold somewhat (don’t worry I do plan on returning to school, I just need to find the right environment).

As I am packing up what is left of my apartment, I am overwhelmed with emotions that hold me to this place. Many memories were made in this apartment. It has seen so much laughter and so much happiness but it also has seen some sadness, tears, and pain. I think what is bothering me is the fact that I am giving up something that was completely mine. I made my own life here, did things that only I wanted to do. I made my home here, and now I am leaving to go to something that is not completely mine. It’s a weird feeling but I think it is what is for the absolute best.

P.S. Helpful moving hint: pack heavy items such as books or vinyl records in suitcases so that instead of having to lift heavy boxes you can easily roll the suitcases.

Have Food, Will Travel

So this is the first time that I have traveled whilst being a vegan. Before I left I was extremely nervous about finding food and finding enough protein and sustenance. I was traveling to places that I had never been so I was unfamiliar with the areas and unfamiliar with the food scenes and restaurants in those cities.

A little background information: One of my sisters was graduating from the University of South Carolina and my family was determined to have everyone fly out and celebrate. So off we all go to Columbia, South Carolina. I have never been to South Carolina nor have I been to the southern states. A few days later my other sister graduated from Barnard College in New York City, so off I go to the Big Apple.

I know that the southern states are most famous for their barbecue and fried chicken and grits and cheese and eggs. All of which are things that make my stomach churn. I packed small bags of mixed nuts and snacks for the plane ride and made sure that the mixed nuts would be able to provide me with ample protein if I were to be desperate. I was most worried about finding breakfast food, because in my experience, breakfast is one of the hardest meals for vegans to find. Most hotels and places do not offer soy milk or breads that don’t have dairy products or vegan options of popular breakfast foods. And I know that New York is just a haven for foodies and has a plethora of choices and styles of cuisines to choose from. But again, never been there, so I was flying blind.

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Vegan pho found at Pho Viet in the Five Points Disctrict of Columbia

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Wrap, couscous, and smoothie from Black Bean Co.

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Mediterranean spread found in the Atlanta Airport

Question 1: How does Columbia, SC do with vegan friendly food? Quite well actually. Especially since I was near a college campus vegan friendly food was in abundance! Thankfully my sister acknowledged my dietary restrictions and made sure to make reservations at restaurants that were vegan friendly for large family lunches and dinners. And I found wonderful alternatives and meals that were exceedingly satisfying. And filling! We had a number of picnics and I was always able to find fruit and veggies, hummus, and mixed nuts no problem. All of the restaurants that we visited were extremely accommodating and very friendly and willing to change or alter dishes to my needs (despite my one anxiety attack at a sushi house.)

Pho, wraps, pizza, Indian food, Japanese food, cookies, crackers, hummus, bread, and lots and lots of wine and champagne makes Cecilia quite a happy person. Thank you sister for looking out for me and thank you Columbia, SC for being so welcoming and making this new vegan feel right at home.

Question 2: I don’t even think there is any question that NYC has so many wonderful options for vegans. I went out exploring on the second day I was in the city for a perfect place for lunch and I came across a place called Peacefood Cafe located on Amsterdam and 82nd on NY’s West Side. It’s pretty close to the Columbia and Barnard campus and an easy Uber ride away from where my family was staying. Being a restaurant and a bakery I was overwhelmed by all of the choices and all of the delicious treats that I saw in the window. I was however fantastically excited when I saw that they had vegan dumplings on the menu since dumplings are one of the things I miss the most. Peacefood’s dumplings were delicious in each and every way. Made with mushrooms, green onions, and tofu, they were so satisfying. I also tasted their chik’n salad and passion fruit smoothie, both of which were just as delicious as the dumplings. Claps all around for Peacefood Cafe. It definitely perked up my experience of the big city.

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Chik’n salad with lettuce and avocado

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The delicious dumplings!!

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Passion fruit smoothie

So after visiting two new (to me) cities as a vegan, I am beyond excited that I was able to find so many wonderful options and not starve. I am also so proud of the fact that I was able to stand my ground and never waver in my morals or in my diet. I almost anticipated caving and finding some fast food just to get protein but I was always able to find suitable things to eat, no matter where I was.

Being vegan and traveling all over the country and all over the world, doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you would have to try really hard to find absolutely no options. Nowadays, even Subway, Chipotle, Noodles & Company, and Wendy’s carry options for us veggies.

So, Cecilia has food, and she definitely will travel. And eat and try delicious new things all the time.

Happy eating herbivores! And happy traveling!

 

What’s in My Make Up Bag?

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The whole kit and caboodle (minus the whole other bag devoted to just lipstick)

Alright so it’s not so much a “bag” as it is a trunk, but this is a post that I have been longing to post for a while. I actually decided to start switching to cruelty free make up about 9 months ago, even before I decided to go vegan. In that time I have completely phased out all of the old products that I used to use and love for completely cruelty free ones. It was a long process but I am incredibly happy with the change and incredibly proud of my make up kit now.

When I was younger, I didn’t play around too too much with make up. I didn’t really wear any until I was about 15 or 16 and even then I never really knew how to properly apply the stuff. Here I am five years later and I have a bit of an obsession. I LOVE make up and I love playing around with it. I love being natural and not wearing anything and being free and easy but I also love playing with colors and looks. Make up is something that I can have fun with and something that gives me confidence and inspiration. And I hope to pass some of that on to you, dear readers.

First things first. Which brands of make up are cruelty free or vegan? How can you tell? How do you know? Well there are many resources online that can help you find cruelty free and vegan products. PETA’s website has a great comprehensive list that is basically my first go to when looking for new brands to try. Another great way to find out about a brand’s animal testing policy is to visit its website. Almost every make up brand now most likely has a FAQ about their policy on animal testing. If you can’t find information online, another way to tell if make up is cruelty free or vegan is if it has any of these symbols : Screen-Shot-2014-03-26-at-9.28.43-PM

These symbols will likely be on the back or sides of packaging and can sometimes be small so search for them but if you see them, do a little dance in the make up aisle because it is AWESOME! Sometimes brands won’t used these symbols exactly but will put 100% Vegan somewhere. Helpful hint: It is always good to double check things online if you are unsure. Sometimes brands will only have the cruelty free symbol and not the vegan one (this means that animal biproducts are probably some of the ingredients of the makeup).

Brands that are officially vegan AND cruelty free are:

  • Arbonne
  • Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  • Pacifica (one of my personal favorites!)
  • Nature’s Gate
  • Beauty Without Cruelty
  • Eco Tools
  • E.L.F (all make up is vegan but not all skin care and brushes are, so DOUBLE CHECK)
  • Hempz (their hair care is to die for!!)
  • Jeffree Star Cosmetics
  • Kat Von D Beauty

Brands that are officially cruelty free:

  • NYX Cosmetics (note: They are cruelty free but their parent company, L’Oreal isn’t)
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills
  • ColourPOP
  • Lush
  • Milani
  • It Cosmetics
  • NARS (note: They are cruelty free but their parent company Shiseido isn’t)
  • Paul Mitchell
  • Murad Skin Care
  • Physician’s Formula
  • Pixi
  • Sonia Kashuk
  • Tarte (note: They are cruelty free but their parent company Kose isn’t)
  • The Balm
  • Tom’s of Maine (Again: this brand is cruelty free but their parent company Colgate-Palmolive isn’t)
  • Too Faced
  • Ulta Collection
  • Urban Decay (again: this brand is cruelty free but their parent company, L’Oreal isn’t)
  • Yes To Beauty

Ok, so depending on your own personal preference, you can choose to use completely vegan products or use a combination of vegan and cruelty free products. Also, it is up to you about supporting companies that are owned by larger corporations that don’t follow the same practices. It really comes down to you and your skin to make these decisions. Make up is the one area where I slide a bit in my veganism. I use cruelty free products and vegan products and admittedly I use brands that are owned by companies who aren’t cruelty free (I know I am not 100% perfect with my veganism but I try to always work with at least cruelty free brands).

Where can you find vegan or cruelty free make up brands?

Finding these make up brands isn’t as hard as you think it might be. Target sells most cruelty free brands such as NYX, Yes To, Tom’s of Maine, Pixi, Physician’s Formula, and Sonia Kashuk. Target also sells E.L.F. cosmetics which is completely vegan (BONUS: E.L.F. cosmetics are really inexpensive and good quality! Most of their products are under $6).

For the higher end brands such as Murad, Paul Mitchell, Jeffree Star, Kat Von D, and others, make up stores and beauty stores such as Ulta, Beauty Brands, and Sephora carry almost all of them. My go to stores are Ulta for make up products and Beauty Brands for hair products (BONUS: Beauty Brands has a semi-annual liter sale where their liter sized shampoos and conditioners are around $14 instead of $30-50).

Cecilia’s Favorites

So…I have been asked by many friends, coworkers, and even family, what are my secrets or my go to products. And I have to say there are some staples that I use now that I use everyday and absolutely love!

So my list of essentials:

  • For cleansers and acne treatments I turn directly to Murad. I have used Murad facial products for about a year now and my skin has never been happier. I don’t think I will ever switch cleansers because Murad just works so well for me.
  • For make up remover and wipes I use Yes To Coconut or Pacifica’s make up wipes. I am trying to cut down on waste though so I am trying to use more coconut oil with reusable washcloths, however so far my skin is not liking the oil.
  • Moisturizers and primers are a mix between Murad, Trader Joe’s, and E.L.F. I use Trader Joe’s brand moisturizer at night after I take off all my makeup. Murad moisturizers and perfectors are some of my favorites and I use those in the mornings before I put any make up on. Then I recently found E.L.F.’s poreless primer which I absolutely adore. I double checked and it is vegan! It makes my face super soft and smooth and helps my makeup last longer.
  • Foundation is E.L.F.’s acne treatment foundation in the shade porcelain
  • Cover up NYX’s wand cover up in the shade porcelain
  • Powder is a different one because I don’t use just one product all the time. I have two products that I love and I switch back and forth between them. I use No. 7’s  loose powder and E.L.F.’s loose high definition powder. I love both.
  • Eyebrows–ok ladies, this is the question I get the most. What I use on my eyebrows. For me I LOVE big, full, and bold eyebrows so I use It Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Pencil. It is absolutely amazing! I swear by this thing. It is a universal pencil so you don’t have to worry about matching colors to your eyebrow hair, just press lightly for blonde, medium pressure for browns, and heavily for dark browns to blacks. It also inspires hair growth so if you have naturally thin eyebrows or if you are like me and once over plucked your eyebrows, this pencil will help your eyebrow hairs grow back.
  • Eyeshadows are a mixture of brands as well. I love to use palettes because I think you just get more bang for your buck that way. I have several palettes that are pretty much go to. I love using NYX palettes and I have two right now. I have the Neon Pop palette and the Go-To Natural palette. I also have several other NYX palettes that I use occasionally but not as much as the other two. I also am obsessed with Too Faced Chocolate Bar palette right now. It has amazing colors that I pretty much use daily and it smells like chocolate.
  • Blush again is a mixture of brands from E.L.F. to NYX to fancier stuff. It all depends on what color scheme I’m going for that day.

Lips–Recently I have been experimenting and loving different lipstick colors and shades. I used to absolutely hate lipstick! Now I love it and I own more lipsticks than any other make up product (I think the number is somewhere around 40?) Again lipstick is a mixture of brands and products for me. I love NYX lipsticks as well as E.L.F. I also have several shades from when I was in Italy (all make up brands in the EU are cruelty free) that I love. I have one or two shades that were samples or free sample gifts that I don’t know the names of or the brands so I rarely wear those but hey they were free. I think most of my lipsticks are NYX though. I love their matte colors especially their Liquid Suede line and their Lip Lingerie line. I also use NYX lip liners. I have one lip liner that I have fallen in love with but I don’t think is produced anymore. Calvin Klein’s lip pencil in Wineberry is my go to liner but I am trying to be careful not to use it too too much because I am going to run out soon and I can’t find it anywhere. My lipsticks are separate from my trunk because there are just so many of them so they have their own separate case.

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The full collection. You can never have too many lipsticks.

I think that about wraps this post up. I’m sorry this one is so long but there is A LOT of information out there about vegan and cruelty free makeup that I wanted to share. I hope this helps all of you who are interested in cruelty free makeup or in vegan makeup.

Remember to love your natural self though! Makeup shouldn’t be a mask that you hide behind, it should be an enhancement of your natural beauty. Love yourself and love who you are, with and without makeup. It is a powerful tool and it is so much fun to play around with. So have fun! Embrace yourself and your beauty and please please please remember to shop cruelty free brands.

Ch-Ch-Changes

Sometimes you have to take the advice of your favorite rock stars.

In the last few months, my life has been changing faster than I can keep up with it. When I think back to even just a year ago, or two years ago, I realize how much things have changed and how much is different. How I am different. So many things have been let go of and so many more things have started and taken over my life. It’s strange to think about the past and how much it really can flash by you. But if you’re like me and sit and ruminate on everything under the sun, thinking about the past can quickly become dangerous.

I started off this year with a huge change in my diet and lifestyle. I decided to go vegan and completely stop consuming animal products of any kind and completely stop using products that were tested on animals. And I have to say how excited and passionate I am about this change. I have always been an animal lover and, personally, I couldn’t justify eating animal products anymore. Looking at the research of how animal agriculture effects the environment and even my own health I made a big decision and I haven’t looked back. I love my new lifestyle and I love how it has opened my eyes and heart to the spirits and rhythms of all the creatures in this world. I admit that I have not been perfect (there was one drunk evening where I ate a sliver of pork and sometimes  I really just crave a good egg roll) but I try my best to keep in tune with my chosen path.

I bought a new coat, completely changed all my beauty products and toiletries, and changed my eating habits entirely. I have never eaten so many salads or fruits and vegetables in all my life. And I could not be happier about that. I have never felt lighter, I am losing weight, I am feeling better about my choices and am loving life more than ever. I can truly and honestly say that becoming vegan changed my life. And for that I am beyond grateful and excited.

So far 2016 has been full of changes and challenges but sometimes change is good. My relationships with my friends and family are better than ever. My relationship with my self is improving enormously and my romantic relationships are improving as a result.

I’ve finally found a direction that I can follow and can rely on. While I’m used to planning out every single detail and defining everything and neurotically micromanaging every aspect of my life, I’m learning to let some things go and to not be so confined.

All of my life I have felt trapped and stuck. Originally I blamed certain situations or certain people for a long time, but I finally realized I was the one that was keeping the cage locked. After realizing that, I now am able to move forward and take on more and more changes and challenges head on.

Being vegan started off the year as the first big change and it started a chain reaction. But I am grateful and joyful with my life and all of its changes and chaos now. I am still learning and still changing, but at least I am moving forward.

“Turn and face the strange” is my motto for the month. Thank you David Bowie for your words of wisdom.

The Opening Act of Spring

As my first major act of spring and renewal, I have officially registered for classes in the fall of 2016. I plan on continuing with my English degree and hopefully graduate to pursue a masters degree Library and Information Science.

I have to say that I am more ecstatic for this decision than most.

A bit of background: I have not been attending classes this semester due to personal and health reasons. I had hit a low with depression and was contemplating suicide last semester. I was consistently in pain and unwilling to get out of bed most days because of how bad I was hurting. I stopped attending a lot of classes and let a lot of other areas of my life slip. I was lost and confused. I was in pain and I didn’t know why. And I was feeling lower than I had ever felt before.

I officially found out a little over a month ago that I have fibromyalgia, which explains the pain I was feeling and contributes to my depression. Over the course of the last few weeks I have been working tirelessly to get a hold of both the fibromyalgia and my depression. And I have to say I have experienced a lot of progress since when I first started feeling lousy last September.

I had a meeting today with my therapist and we spoke about how I was trying to deal with recent circumstances and how I can apply methods of coping from one aspect of my life to another. This is something that I would highly suggest doing for any person who struggles with certain different things. If you find a method that works, try and see if you can apply it to every problem you face. It could be easier than starting from scratch all over again. And in my experience, using a tool or strategy that you know works can be motivating and quite helpful.

Handling fibromyalgia and depression and anxiety all at the same time has been trying and difficult and there were many times when I thought about giving up. But I want to push through. I want to get better. I hit a wall recently and I realized that I needed to help myself stand up to the depression and anxiety and to cope with the pain.

Over the past two weeks I have done significantly better than I have in  the last few months. I’ve been working on my personal relationships and on my professional ones. I have been loosening my grip on my own (utterly ridiculous) standards that I hold myself to, and I have been trying to relax my mind.

I am so used to my thoughts running at 100 miles per hour and losing control over my own thinking to the point where I am no longer being rational. I am so used to constantly worrying about everything: did the car get taken in on time, how my apartment looks, what other people think of me, how I’m doing at work, how my relationship is going, how my friends see me, am I a good person. All hours of the day 24/7, that was what I usually thought about. And then of course there were the spiraling thoughts on how I would be able to feed myself, and buy gas, and pay rent, and make sure the electric bill was sent in on time. And then on top of all that other junk, were my thoughts on depression, on pain, on sadness, and on hating myself.

I am trying to stop these destructive patterns of thinking. I am trying not to worry about what other people think of me or what other people are thinking and just focusing on myself and what I am thinking and what I think of me. I am trying not to worry about so many things at once and not trying to plan the next five years of my life out in advance, but maybe just trying to plan the next few days or few weeks (something my mother has consistently advised me to do since I was in high school). I am not trying to label myself and my relationships and trying to let go of the need to define and add meaning to every single little thing in my life. I am trying to let go of my obsessive need to clean everything in sight (I used to vacuum my apartment ever two days or so). I am trying not to worry so much about mess and embrace the chaos of my twenty-something life. I am trying to love myself, flaws and all. And while I am scared and unsure of my abilities to handle such things quite yet, I am confident that I can probably figure them out.

My life has had a lot of ups and downs over the past few years. But I want to conquer and own my story and my own life. And I think I should start with conquering my diagnoses. I don’t want to let depression or anxiety or fibromyalgia get in the way of going after my dreams and my wants and my education. My sister put it in the best possible way for me: “You shouldn’t look at it like ‘I’m in pain, therefore I cannot be happy’ but more like ‘I’m in pain, and in spite of that I am still happy.'”

So…I am happy. For the first time in a long while. And I think it is just going to get better from here.

Happy Spring!

Identity

So, I have found myself newly single and I’ve made some eye opening realizations. It hasn’t been too long since the break-up but I have been thinking a lot about myself and about my own identity.

I have been in a long term or steady relationship since I was fifteen years old (I am now 20). I was with my high school sweetheart for three years, two in high school and then one in college. I moved in with him and lived with him for three months before we broke up. I then spent about a week and a half single and  then started dating my last boyfriend. At first I thought it would just be something fun, but we ended up dating for a year and a half. We moved in together and lived together for a while too. And now we are here.

With my high school sweetheart, I met and knew him from my freshman year of high school. We were friends and then started dating my junior year. He was older and handsome, so dating him was exciting. He was in college, very tall, and very handsome. He had some good qualities but he had some bad ones too. We didn’t have anything in common, we were very different people, and his family were not my biggest fans. He was wickedly manipulative but so was I at that point in time. I followed this young man to a college that was not really my top choice but forced myself to think that it was. I compromised on my values and dreams to be with him and I put up with a lot of abuse and ostracization from his family. But still I stayed. I thought that I was happy and that I should just take things as they were because at least I knew where I was going. I had a plan for everything. We were going to live together and I would be finished with my undergraduate degree right as he was finishing his graduate degree and then we would get married, move to a new city where he could find a job, settle down, and be together. It was a good plan for a mediocre life. When I finally realized that I didn’t have to settle for mediocre I ended things and upended all of the plans and ideas that I had thought about for three years. Which admittedly was one of the hardest things I have had to do.

After I broke up with my high school sweetheart, I started talking to another guy who was in one of my classes. We first met my freshman year of college and then kept in touch every now and again. When I was going through my big break-up he was the person I turned to and talked to the most. I started to develop serious feelings and we started hanging out more and more. A week and a half later we started dating and we continued to date for another year and a half. And things were amazing. We started out on cloud nine with each other but over the course of a few months things started to fizzle. We stopped being intimate and started falling into routine. We both ignored our feelings of hesitancy and kept things going because we really did love each other. But sometimes loving one another doesn’t mean things work out. And I think knowing that makes me more heartbroken than ever.

But now that I am single and sitting in my apartment alone for the first night in a long, long while, I am coming to the realization that I have never had or figured out my own true identity. For about the last five years my identity has been centered around someone else or at least tied to someone else. I have consistently been the “girlfriend” for the last five years. I was the one who took care of the apartment and cleaned everything. I managed the leases and finances. I took care of business for the both of us, I made sure to remember all of the things they like or disliked, all of the things they wanted, all of the things they thought about. With my high school sweetheart, I made sure to remember which brands of laundry detergent he was allergic to so I would make sure to always buy the right brand. With my last boyfriend I made sure to  add banana peppers to all of our pizzas because he loved the taste of them. And I was happy to do all of these things. For a time.

Now that I am on my own, I don’t exactly know who I am supposed to be. I don’t have to remember things anymore and I don’t have to make plans for two people. I don’t have to do laundry for two people or cook for two people, or pick up after two people. It’s strange. I feel like there should be something for me to do or clean or pick up or remember. But there isn’t. There’s just me. It’s an oddly liberating and isolating feeling.

I have jumped from one serious relationship to another and in the process have lost my own identity. It was absorbed and morphed into one that coincided with my relationships. I haven’t truly been my own person in five years. But, hopefully, I can rediscover myself this time around.

I have made a promise to myself to remain single for a much longer period of time (I am not entirely sure how long yet) and to become comfortable with myself and love myself before I do so with another person. I hope to find my true passions and learn more about who I truly am.  I want to be my own. I want to be in charge of my own identity and not be just the “girlfriend” anymore. I am not sure where I  should start yet but as long as I have my cat, some bunny slippers, and a glass of wine I think I will be able to figure things out.

Wish me luck! This is all new to me.

BFRB

No, it’s not a new slang term or acronym that teenagers are using. And it’s not a band name either.

I want to talk about BFRB but before I do I want to express how much this means to me and how much it affects my life. This is something I have never really talked about with anybody except my therapist and significant other. Only two people in my whole life really know that I deal with BFRB and now maybe that number will grow. But I hope to shed a little light on something that might very well be unknown to most of you.

BFRB stands for Body Focused Repetitive Behavior. On Wikipedia, BFRB is defined as “an umbrella name for impulse control behaviors involving compulsively damaging one’s physical appearance or causing physical injury.”

Ok. So what does that mean? It means that if one suffers from this behavior, they compulsively and sometimes obsessively pick, pull, or bite themselves. Trichotillomania (hair pulling) is one of the most common BFRB habits. But there can be other kinds too. Cheek biting, nail biting, hair chewing, dermatillomania (skin picking). These are all habits that fall under the blanket term BFRB.

BFRB is usually associated with anxiety disorders such as General Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However the behavior doesn’t necessarily have to be linked with an anxiety disorder to occur.

I have dermatillomania. Ever since I can remember I have compulsively picked at every skin bump, pimple, scab, or ingrown hair. I have tried for the last three years to stop but dermatillomania is a compulsion. An obsession.

I remember the first day I ever popped a pimple. I remember the first day I ever picked at a scab. And I can’t stop. I have tried for years to control this behavior. And for a few days I’ll be good. And then I’ll cave and I can’t stop again.

I have scars all over my forehead and chin because of this behavior. I have scars all over my legs and arms. I even have some in my hair line. It’s dangerous to do what I do to my body. Obsessive and compulsive picking can lead to permanent scarring (got that!), increased inflammation and pain (been there!), redness (ooh yes!), and sometimes even infection (haven’t had that one yet).

I want to talk about this problem and open up about to inform people that while it may not be seen, BFRB is definitely a disorder that is there and that is something to be taken seriously. I am not looking for pity or for sympathy, I merely want awareness and recognition for BFRB. Research shows that 1 in 20 people have a form of BFRB and that trichotillomania has affected at least 10 million Americans. However, BFRBs only take up a small paragraph in a subsection of the Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders section of the DSM-5 (basically, these disorders don’t have full categorization as actual disorders). This means that these disorders are highly misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and under-researched.

While this topic might be very revealing for my second post, I feel strongly about it and I am quite passionate about raising more awareness, hopefully to allow more research. Dermatillomania and other BFRBs are real and they are out there. I hope that one day these disorders will be recognized and properly treated so that some can find relief from the compulsion.

Take care of yourselves, dear readers. Love yourselves. Be happy.

P.S. A daily regimen of face wash, moisturizer, and primer help me with my complexion (and scars) as well as a coconut oil cleanse every 4 or 5 days. Oh! and those mud masks and pore strips are godsends!

 

 

 

First and Foremost

Here I am. My first blog post ever. After fighting with changing photos and uploading my own images and rearranging things, and deciding on a name, I have finally accomplished and achieved something that I have been planning on for years. Finally.

I have always played around with the idea of writing a blog but was consistently terrified over the notion and idea that no one would read it or that I would receive mean comments on my posts or I would fail and never post anything. Anxiety is a trip sometimes. But after recent experiences and realizations, I don’t think I care much about that anymore. I need an outlet, and even if this blog is only for me and doesn’t get many followers or readers, at least I am doing something and creating something. At least I am putting a part of myself in the world and I am doing something that I never thought I would.

I already have so many ideas for posts and for topics to discuss. I hope that my words and ideas reach some people, maybe even people I don’t know. I have hopes for my writing and hopes for what I post and how my internet life might evolve and I have hopes of accomplishing my own personal goals and of sharing my own personal stories with the world. Even if only two people read these posts, at least I know I am being heard by someone. But I hope to maybe have more than two people reading my posts. Three or four people would be nice.

I hope to make this blog about my experiences living as a college student, about my passion for veganism and food, about my love for make up and all things pretty, about my experiences with multiple different diagnoses for mental and physical disorders, and about spreading awareness for ideas and issues that I am passionate about.

I would also love to use this blog as the jumping point for a project I have been planning for about two or three years now. I want to start a 100 Days of Happiness project and post about it here, but that might come later, you know, once I get into the groove of posting and writing. And maybe get a camera and better editing skills than my cellphone and Instagram.

Honestly, I can’t express how excited I am about this step I am taking. I remember a time in my life where I couldn’t imagine speaking to someone on the telephone, let alone posting about my life and experiences online. But things change and people change, and accepting new things and making big jumps into the unknown can be good sometimes. So here I am, jumping into the unknown. Here I am starting what I hope will become a grand adventure.

But, I digress and bid the internet adieu for the night.