Hard decisions to make (Life during Covid-19)

The last professional wrestling show I went to in-person was April 2019, it was a WWE Event at Madison Square Garden with my younger brother. We had a blast at the Monday Night Raw after Wrestlemania. It’s a coveted show to WWE fans because that’s usually an eventful night for their fans. Today was supposed to be my long awaited reunion with the wrestling world. Today I was supposed to head to New Jersey for my first All Elite Wrestling event and my first time watching wrestling live in over two years. Unfortunately, due to protcols in the arena, I needed to consider mine and my wife’s first and ultimately decide not to go.

While we are without a doubt healing from the Pandemic, we are still actively in one. Our world has not been eradicated from Covid-19, so when venues don’t offer any sort of Covid protocols, it makes me question my attendance there. This isn’t a dig at protocols or what’s right or wrong. I don’t like to publicly shame anyone for how they carry themselves. This is merely a reminder for myself that this new normal is very real and choices like these will continuously be presented.

Did I want to go tonight? Absolutely. I’ve been waiting for this day for over a year but knowing that I’m going to be getting on a plane in less than a week’s time for our honeymoon left me unable to go through with my plans tonight. I was given the choice to potentially jeopardize our honeymoon and attend or to stay safe in an environment that will allow me and my wife to travel on a vacation together for the first time in 5 years. This decision was not easy to make but a necessary one nonethless. Our world will be full of stops and pauses to think, is this safe? Am I putting myself and my family at a risk? It’s the reality of our new world and a very eye-opening idea for me to take on. It makes me sad that is how it needs to be but I am willing to do whatever it takes for myself and my family’s benefit. We all will at some point have to resume our daily lives but it doesn’t come without a known risk. I just hope we can all do our best to continue to help ourselves and others along the way.

September 11th – 20 years later

There is always the moment in history that people will retroactively ask you about. Questions like where were you when it happened? What were you doing? How did you feel? September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center towers fell was my major historical experience. I can remember where I was, what I was doing and how I felt. I was 12 years old on that day, I was supposed to be in school but I had stayed home not feeling well. I slept most of the morning away with cramps but was awoken by Dad after the second tower was hit. He explained to me what had happened and that it was important that I wake up to see all of this. I went into my living room and sat by the TV and watched it all unfold. My mother was already getting my brother from school and I was sitting at home paraylzed by the sight in front of me. I’d never experienced anything like this before. I had only read about events like this in books which led my already anxious mind to a million questions, would there be a war like I had learned about in school books? Would this unknown enemy be here to stay? I was just shy becoming a teenager so my mind couldn’t wrap my head around any of it. I had a lot of questions and very few answers to them were immediate.

Now as a 32 year old woman, I have been working in the Manhattan area for 14 years walking the same path that so many did on that day. Every year I find myself feeling extra somber on the anniversary but always grateful to have never met the same fate. Twenty years is a long time but I know as a New Yorker that I will never forget that day. I will never forget the fear I felt, I will never forget the uncertainty, but I mostly will never forget how New York banded together to help each other anyway they could. How food drives started, how collection of medical supplies began, and how so many people helped each other get home when the city was in chaos. Looking back on that day as an adult and when I share the stories with the generations after, I always moved by the generousity of others in times of tragedy. We were all fearful and afraid and so many had been lost, but hard times created so many kind stories.

To anyone who experienced this first hand, my heart will always be with you.

Photo by Fabiola Ulate on Pexels.com
One hand in the air for the big city
Street lights, big dreams, all lookin' pretty
No place in the world that could compare
- Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z (Ft. Alicia Keys)

The realization of my people-pleasing.

The term “people-pleaser” is one that I learned in the past year through therapy. It’s a term that feels accusatory but it’s fitting with my anxiety and behavior patterns. This was both alarming but also disheartening to really deep dive into. My need for therapy homework struck again and the therapist suggested the book, The Disease to Please by Dr. Harriet B. Braiker. This book gives a detailed breakdown of habits of a people pleaser, a break down of how it applies in everyday life, and a detailed program created by the author to assist the reader in breaking these habits. I immediately began to overthink things and attempt perfection (which is a whole other beast) in ridding myself of these habits. 32 years of habits aren’t just going to go away over night. I was being driven by shame and anxiety that if I didn’t shake this that I would be further doomed than I was before.

While the anxiety has slowed, I still battle people pleasing. The need to control situations for my own comfort or my need to overprotect loved ones still happens to me. I’d love to sit here and say therapy and a book was the cure all but it’s the application of the tools from therapy and the book that help me with this daily struggle. Finally, realizing why I do some things and that I’m not responsible for the happiness of anyone else but myself is freeing. However, it doesn’t make it any easier when situations come up. I want to help, I want to fix and knowing that I can’t always do that for everyone or even myself with my own emotions is scary to feel. It’s not easy to just let go but I know it’s going to foster better relationships with myself and the people around me.

The Silver Linings of a Pandemic

The title sounds like a fluffy crock of shit. I know, I get it. There are so many people in the world who have seen more crap in the last year and a half than they have in their entire lives. However, my therapist said something that got me thinking. “Without the pandemic, you would have never stopped to see what wasn’t working.” Honestly, they were right. Pre-pandemic I spent a lot of time bathed in distraction desperate not to feel any physical sensations or mental stress. I wanted to capture this version of myself that I wanted to be for everyone else. The reality was, it wasn’t working for me but I was too scared to say it out loud. This pandemic gave me the pause that I needed to start from the ground up. What felt like a “mental breakdown” was actually a necessary breaking point that I needed to rebuild a version of myself that was finally for just me. It’s the reframed thought that I’ve used to pull myself out of the idea that I had to be ashamed of having struggles. Nothing was wrong with me, I just needed a break to find out who the hell I was without anyone else’s approval, opinions or ideas. The distractions faded and I was bathed in the scary silence to hear my own needs, thoughts, and ideas.

Outside of the realm of me, I found the gift of connection. I’ve spent a lot of time on here sharing my mental health story and updates as time passes but I haven’t shared the other important parts of me. Truthfully, I have the best friends on the planet. From the first week of the pandemic until to this day, we’ve found a way to become closer than we ever have before. Pre-pandemic we were all wrapped up in our own lives. We’d text when we remembered, we’d make the effort to see each other a few times a year but it stayed there. Now, we talk daily and stay up to date with each other’s lives and do our best to be there for each other and share our respective lives when we can. What started as drunk zooms to make the best of a crappy situation turned into a daily updates, which I am beyond grateful for. Thanks to the Marco Polo app, we have a place to chat on our own time without the schedule coordination that Zoom took. It’s been the missing link to our friendship and I’m so glad that we’re now able to keep up with each other more than we ever have. I think being pushed to band together when it hurt the most was valuable. It was the reinforcement that we weren’t alone and one I know I’ll cherish forever.

These were the two biggest silver linings for me. It’s easy to get lost in all of the damage that this time has done. I still have to ground myself in the sadness sometimes because it can be very consuming. However, I remain grateful that I am able to find the little things that can bring light to my world. They mean everything.

The Pieces of Me – A Journey to Radical Acceptance

The concept of radical acceptance felt like conceding when I was initially told by my therapist that would be the game changer for healing. How could I accept debilitating anxiety? How could I accept the disruption my mental health was causing to myself, my wife, and family? The idea was a very confusing concept for me when she suggested it. Wasn’t the whole point of therapy for me to continue to fight this battle I was in? The thought of abandoning control and just accepting things for what they were in each moment felt so foreign. I entered therapy with the mindset that I needed to be saved and fixed. I was inherently broken in some way. How could just letting things be do anything? I had a lot of questions that were slowly answered over the course of each session we’ve had.

I fought the concept initially. I am a fixer by nature so none of this made sense. While they continued to explain this to me further they also recommended Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of A Buddha by Dr. Tara Branch. The first few chapters into the book gave me a lot of anxiety. The author made this all seem too easy to do. Was I missing something? Was there some sort of skill set I wasn’t mastering? The shame and fear grew larger. The idea that accepting all of the parts of myself that I found inconvenient or wrong or “too much” would make all of the heaviness of anxiety and mental turmoil go away felt counterproductive. I was in therapy to rid myself of this, not embrace what it did to me. However, once I stopped obsessing over doing everything the therapist and the book told me to do in a perfect way, the change happened on its own.

Action took the lead and I stopped myself from overthinking every step that I was given. I told myself that it’s time to stop beating myself up for being anxious about things not everyone may be anxious about, it’s time to stop labeling myself the resident “chicken shit” of any room I walk into, it’s time to experience big emotions and fully even when it makes me feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. It’s time to accept that I am a human with complex emotions and thoughts just like anyone else. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to mold myself to fit the needs and wants of other people. Life as a people-pleaser will give you that fate but everyday I try and make the conscious choice to allow myself the full spectrum of the human condition with condemning myself for it.

Is Radical Acceptance easy to do? Absolutely not. It is the hardest thing I’ve been challenged to do in therapy but it has been the most helpful. I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life living in the shame of my mental health, shouldering the burden, and not giving myself the freedom to be me even when it was hard. It’s a process that I still struggle with because of my learned patterns in my 32 years on earth. The journey for acceptance will be never ending, it’ll always be a new challenge to endure and push myself into but I am determined to love myself with the same reckless abandon that I love others with. It’s so needed and deserved.

To anyone who struggles with anxiety like I do, I see you and I feel for you. But, know that you are not alone in any way. Everything you think is annoying or inconvenient isn’t nearly as bad as your mind makes it out to be. I challenge anyone with anxiety to try for acceptance. As much as you may want to control your situation because it feels like its spiraling, I promise you there is a freedom in the ability to let go and face things as they come. There’s a freedom in being present and not allowing your anxiety to be your sole focus. You deserve to be your whole self, without the label of good or bad and just being.