The Life-Changing Magic of Not Being So Hard on Yourself

Happy 2019 friends!! Hope your year has been fabulous so far. I know I feel that “brand new crisp notebook” feeling in the air- do you?

I’ve actually had a beautiful realization in the new year that has me more excited than anything else, and I have to share because it’s been pretty powerful.

If you’ve followed this or any of my other blogs, or follow me on social media, you probably know I have been in recovery for an eating disorder that I probably developed somewhere around ten or eleven years of age. I have written about the awful voice that was part of my disorder, the one that sits on your shoulder and constantly tells you you’re failing, you’re fat, you’re lazy, you’re worthless, because you’re undisciplined and unmotivated and not dieting or working out enough, and that’s why you didn’t book your last three auditions.

It was a really fun time.

giphy

What sweet relief when I discovered, as my recovery marched along, that voice was becoming quieter. It was showing up less and less. I could actually talk to it, tell it to shut up. Eventually, it stopped coming by almost completely.

Continue reading

Advertisements

“Fighting” Holiday Anxiety This Year

christmas-tree-with-decorations-picjumbo-com.jpg

Photo credit: Viktor Hanacek

The holidays are a stressful time for most of us, I would wager. At least most people I know.

If you have financial trouble, nothing puts pressure on it like needing to buy a million gifts, travel, or make a time extra magical somehow for your kids. If you are far from your family or have little family, holidays will shine a spotlight right on that sore spot. Let’s say you have money- are your gifts thoughtful enough? If you spend too much, will you make them uncomfortable? Are your kids learning the right lessons about giving?

On and on, the anxious mind can spin.

Did your mother-in-law hate your turkey? Is your racist drunk uncle coming to the Christmas party where he will certainly pick a fight with you? Will your flight be canceled due to a blizzard and you’ll miss Christmas altogether?

And, for those of us who identify as introverts, my big question every year- how do I build in badly needed “me time” to the nonstop holiday celebrations?

I’ve read list after list of ideas for fighting the extra anxiety that the holidays bring. They usually include things like this:

  • “Make sure you make time for workouts! Those endorphins will help bust through the gloom and keep you feeling great!”
  • “Don’t go into debt to give gifts. Give something handmade, or just trust that being together with your family is the most important thing.”
  • “Don’t go overboard hosting! Keep dinner simple and click THIS LINK for tons of inexpensive DIY decor!”
  • “Teach your kids that giving is better than receiving. Volunteer, adopt a family in need, and encourage them to make gifts from the heart for teachers or friends.”

The brilliant “tips” go on like this, full of ways to put your mind at ease that you’re doing your very best.

None of these are bad ideas. Nothing wrong with them. But let’s get real for a second.

I’m busy. I’m even busier during the holidays. While a trip to Michaels, hours on Pinterest, and even more hours creating an “inexpensive handmade” gift might sound like a good way to save money on expensive items, swapping my credit card for a perfectly lovely present from a department store is way less stressful.

Will I make time for workouts? I hope! But, honestly, eating a vegetable or two and getting six hours of sleep might be about all the wellness I have time for some days.

Will showing up without a gift, encouraged that the “present of my presence” will be enough really make for a comfortable situation in most cases? Probably not, let’s face it.

There will likely be family drama. My jeans will likely get tighter. The kids will likely not have a perfect Hallmark Christmas full of lifelong lessons about the magic of giving and the evil that is constant consumerism. I hope to teach them gratitude, how little others have, and how fun it is to give someone a gift. Here’s hoping.

Here is my point: this year, I’m leaning in. I’m just accepting that this is going to be stressful. I’m sitting in it. I’m going to organize as best I can, and spend too much, and miss some things, and probably not work out enough. I might get high strung. I might have a meltdown. I might forget a gift until the last minute, or not get holiday cards out this year, or spend too much, or too little, or gain weight, or not get out of bed some days.

So what?

Will the world end because I didn’t wake up an hour early every day to do yoga? Will my family fall apart because we had to say “no” to some events and invites? Will my husband leave me because I didn’t create a Pinterest-worthy spread for a Christmas get-together?

Nope.

Will I regret the credit card debt come January that will save me loads of time in December?

I don’t know. Maybe.

All I know is that I can’t do it all perfectly, and I can’t do it “imperfectly” perfectly, so, it’s not going to be perfect. It’s going to be real.

Try to stay present. Spend money if needed, don’t if it’s not necessary. Give myself a break. Constantly find reasons to be grateful and notice them as often as possible. Be prepared to fail some days, totally fail. Don’t miss the magic in the very small things, if you can help it.

This is my holiday plan, and probably just a decent plan for life, too. I constantly find that the best anxiety buster is accepting anxiety. It seems to dissipate once given into.

And, failing that, there is always, always wine.

 

3 Types of “To-Do” Lists that Can Help When Depression Sets In

shutterstock_314959406

Let’s get real. Making a “to-do” list on a day you’re struggling with depression can be many things, but “helpful” is not usually one of them. Most days I wake up this way the feeling is so heavy I can’t even find the tiniest bit of will to fight it. Or I stare at my list of goals I made the night before and cry, knowing I’ll never complete anything, any time, anywhere, because that’s what the voice in my head is telling me.

I can’t even get in the shower, but I’m supposed to create a thoughtful DIY gift for my anniversary, plan a party, work on a script I’m writing, and make three phone calls?

Um, not happening.

Honestly, when depression sets in, I usually forget why I wanted to do any of these things in the first place. Nothing seems important. Everything feels impossible. I just want time to stop so I can hide under my covers and cry or sleep.

However, over many years of dealing with depression in the various forms in which it visits me, I’ve learned that at certain times, there are things I can do to cushion the blow. Mostly, I’ve developed tools that prevent it from hitting me so hard or so often- though these don’t always work. Once it comes, it’s generally out of my hands, since I’m not exactly “myself” during those times.

When I am able to get a small ledge to hold onto, one of the things that can help me is, believe it or not, a to-do list.

Generally, depending on where I am mentally, these lists fall into one of three categories. I’m going to share them here in case one or more can ever help anyone else when they are slipping down into that deep hole of sadness or numbness.

And please remember, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, if that’s what you need. Sometimes we just need to stop and be as gentle as possible with ourselves. There is no shame in having to stop.

Here are the types of lists I use. These aren’t in order of “feeling best to worst” or anything like that. Depression simply hits differently sometimes.

List #1: The “Things I Know Will Make Me Feel Better and Start to Move Me Out of a Depressed State” List

This is one only accessible to me when I’m just starting to get a bit “off” or when I’ve been feeling depressed for a bit and can see the light, however dim, at the end of the tunnel. Continue reading

Actors- Confused About the 2018 Tax Law Changes?

Tax stress

Hey LA actors! I don’t know about you, but I am completely lost as to how the new tax laws affect me. I’m not thrilled about it either, seeing as I spent the last fifteen years as a professional actor learning exactly what was deductible, what wasn’t, and how to make the most of my tax returns.

Now it’s just the wild west.

If you are feeling a little confused or unsure, I have great news! The Actor’s Fund is sponsoring a FREE workshop on Thursday, September 27th at 6:30 pm to explain to performers how the changes will affect them going forward.

Tax time is already stressful- come to this event and learn what you need to know to be as prepared as possible!

It will be held at the SAG-AFTRA building on Wilshire, but my understanding is that you do not need to be union to attend.

Here is the link to RSVP and secure your spot:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-tax-law-changes-be-prepared-not-panicked-registration-48940249604?aff=ebdsorderfblightbox

If you aren’t in the LA area, worry not! I will do my best to condense and share useful information here on the blog after the workshop.

Final note- The Actor’s Fund has a huge list of programs and workshops besides this one to help performers, so be sure to check them out at their website, https://actorsfund.org/ when you get a chance. If you need help, reach out to them. If you can give, it’s a worthwhile cause!

 

3 Ways Social Media Makes My Depression Worse

Social Media addict

I am not trendy.

I know, when it comes to social media, a lot of millennials love to hate it. It’s cool to bash Facebook and take “breaks” or swear it off altogether. (Yeah right, Karen. See you back here posting in a week.)

I get into Snapchat and Instagram, too- I’m not completely unhip. But I’m not as cool as my younger friends and family who don’t even need a Facebook page, who may barely ever check my hilarious Snaps of my cat (their loss!), who post one perfect selfie #ootd Insta a week, with an inspirational quote here and there to mix it up.

I still use emojis when I should be using a little person that looks like me and makes the proper expressions, according to my 13 year old step-daughter. (An avatar, maybe? I just imagine myself all blue having weird hair sex…)

Social media suits me. I’ve moved to six different states. I’ve lived the actor’s life of having a “show family” you love with all your heart that you may never, ever see again. I travel for work. I also “network” for work (UGH).

Here is my point- I need to, and enjoy, keeping in touch with great people I meet all over. I LOVE knowing what my family in Indiana is up to and how everyone is without making thirty phone calls a day. I like getting updates on college acceptances, post-op progress, and finally getting to see when your baby goes from “gross alien you love anyway” to “cute!”  Continue reading

You CAN Go Home Again

Home. The City of Angels. SoCal. LA. We made it back.

I once heard someone say that once you live somewhere for ten years, you are really from there. Does Los Angeles count for me? I celebrated my ten year anniversary of moving here at the end of April.

Of course, I took some breaks. I spent a year in Atlanta, chunks of time away to make a movie in Minnesota, to travel Ecuador, to all over North America when I worked jobs for Porsche, a long time to shack up with the husband in Michigan….

Still, I felt like an Angeleno the moment I arrived.

I’ll never forget that flight. My boyfriend at the time and I had decided to move to LA, not New York as we had always planned. I honestly forget why. We were living in Sarasota, Florida, doing a long run of a show. Evita. A ten week run. Maybe we were burnt out on the idea of eight shows a week for a while. I think maybe his dad suggested to us we try LA. I know NYC had always been the end game…we had visited for long periods and loved it.

Maybe it was a fluke. Something about the movies drew us in. I really can’t say a decade later. Continue reading

A Whole New Book

Sometimes in life you get to start a fresh new chapter.

Today, I feel like I’m starting a whole new book.

Yep. I got that first day of school, fresh, clean notebook, crisp pages, shiny ink-filled pens vibe.

I’ve been away from LA for almost a year and a half. Not totally, strictly “away.” I’ve been there for chunks of time. Months, sometimes. But I haven’t had a true home there in something like 18 months.

It’s been an exciting 18 months, for the most part. I did get to start at Groundlings. I spent two weeks in Thailand. A month traveling all over Ecuador. Performed onstage in NYC for the first time.

I worked random jobs- a hosting gig here, a commercial there.

I got to go home- as in my birth home- a lot, spend a lot of time with family, mine and my husband’s.

Today, we are packing up the Cadillac and starting the road trip home. To the west coast. To LA. To the place my dreams live. To the city that makes me feel like I can take a deep breath and be the most me.

Life is full of twists and turns you can never expect. Now it’s time to ride those twists and turns out west, to jump on Route 66 and start my new book with a road trip adventure.

Also, Los Angeles is now offering yoga classes with Lola the Sloth, so it seems my return is just in time. 🙂

 

“Overweight”

Happiness Scales

I am overweight.

That’s what the color-coded table on the wall behind the scale says. That’s what the nurse wrote down on my chart. That must be true.

After all, these are the experts. The doctors, the graphs, the numbers. They know.

I’ve never seen them do it before, maybe I never noticed. I’ve been the same weight for about a year now, give or take. After my body hoarded fat for a while as it tried to rebalance after 15 years of an eating disorder, it’s finally calmed down. It’s landed and settled. It’s a lovely place to be, because I feel happy for my body. Like it finally trusts me again.

Like it knows I’m not going to starve it anymore.

I feel amazing. But I’m overweight. That’s the word. For my height, if I weigh this number, I go into an “orange zone.” It’s not the “normal” zone. It’s over the line. I’ve gone too far. Medically, I set off an alarm.

There is no category for “underweight.” Not on the chart behind the scale. I looked. My old weight, the weight range I was before I got healthy, it isn’t even listed. It’s not worth the effort of assigning a color. I weighed myself obsessively every single day for years, and I know all the numbers. Not one of them was on that scale. Continue reading

Why Sharing Our Mental Health Stories is SO Important

I’m writing this blog from the side of the road. Seriously. I was listening to NPR, a piece about a shortage of psychologists. Turns out the baby boomers need mental health care just like they need regular health care, and the increased population means there aren’t enough psychiatrists and psychologists to go around at the moment.

Side note- if you’re looking into these fields, apparently you will find yourself quite employable!

I was sort of half listening when the guest said something that caught my ear. (Definitely half listening, or I would have some name or title more specific than “the guest” to share with you….) He mentioned how mental health discussions are so often buried under the rug, explaining that if you have a surgery, as an example, people bring flowers and you post updates on social media and everyone is very supportive.

If you have a panic attack, however, we don’t share or handle it the same way, and we don’t expect people to react with unbridled support, either.

This kills me, and goes back to a point I’ve reiterated so many times on the blog you may be sick of hearing it, but it is worth repeating:

We HAVE to share our mental health stories in order to slowly chip away at the stigma surrounding these issues.

After all, doesn’t someone suffering a severe bout of depression deserve just as much support as someone who broke their leg? Might it even go further with the person struggling with the point of life in general? Continue reading

When Someone You Love Can’t Accept Your New “Imperfect” Body

Loveyourbody

I’ve been on this journey of recovery from my eating disorder for about three years now. I purposely have taken it slow, going step by step. Once I realized I could stop feeling the way I felt my entire life, I wanted to be sure I did everything in my power to put an end to it for good.

That’s not to say I really ever think I’ll be totally “cured,” for lack of a better word. Everyone’s journey is different, and most people I’ve connected with or read about feel that an eating disorder is something that never quite goes away. My therapist compared my disorder most closely to my anxiety and depression, as an imbalance that manifests itself in a specific way. Indeed, as I’ve let go of my regimented eating and workout habits, I’ve felt OCD coming back in certain ways pretty strongly, so she’s onto something.

However, I’ve always mentally compared it to alcoholism, which is a tactic that’s helped me a lot. Since my dad is an alcoholic and I’ve spent years in Al-Anon, I know a whole lot about it. I’ve watched him go in and out (mostly out) of recovery over and over, and am practically an expert in this category, as one becomes out of necessity. I know for a fact that an alcoholic has to admit they are powerless over alcohol completely, and to succeed in recovery they have to accept they can never have another drink.

For me, this was a natural transfer. At some point early in my recovery, I learned that people with disordered eating are really at risk if they venture into any regimented diet or exercise plan, even the “healthy” ones. (Whether there is any truly “healthy” way to restrict and control what we put into our bodies is a topic for another blog.) Right away I admitted to myself that I was powerless over the need to control my body and that I had to give it up altogether.

This may not work for everyone. It helped me a lot. I backslid a few times- more than a few times- but my goal was to get to a place where I ate and exercised only to feel good. I had to let go of all calorie counting, all instances of forcing myself to work out if I felt it was for the wrong reasons, all restrictions of this food or that, basically let my body eat and do what it wanted for a while to learn about its needs, what made me feel good or bad, etc.

Naturally, I’ve gained weight. I try to stay away from numbers and sizes in this blog because I think comparisons are very dangerous. Every body is different. For me, I’ve gone up several sizes over these three years, and that’s how I know how much I’ve changed. Of course, this is common, and since I’ve stopped starving and purging, it’s naturally going to happen. There is the added element that I denied my body enough food for so long, it’s holding onto fats for dear life. Continue reading