The day I hit rock bottom was a weekday. I finally woke up after hitting the snooze button every ten minutes… consecutively… for an hour. I opened my eyes and thought to myself, “If I can manage to get ready in five minutes, I will only be fifteen minutes late for work”. But I could not get my legs and arms to move as quickly as my mind. Like anvils weighing me down, I couldn’t get my legs to move at all. In fact, I was nearly catatonic. That day, my husband showered me, dressed me, and drove me to work. I didn’t even have the energy to feel embarrassed about that. At work, I couldn’t explain that for weeks, I had suddenly began experiencing panic attacks in social situations. The way I couldn’t explain or my tardiness that day. Or, worse yet, I couldn’t explain that the reason I looked like I had been hit by a Mack truck was because I had been dressed by a boy. That was the day I resolved to seek medical attention. The diagnosis: stress.
After several sessions with a condescendingly handsome therapist, some lite journaling, and a couple of uncomfortable conversations about my childhood, he told me that what I had was a tendency to catastrophize. The therapist went on to explain that I am able to envision my future failures to such an extent it causes enough anxiety to incite the panic attacks. In fact, my fears had become so intense I had created a vicious cycle of retreating within myself and staying home, thus becoming so stressed in the few social interactions I did have, that I couldn’t stand them without experiencing shortness of breath, increased heart palpitations, and feeling lightheaded.
Since then, I have worked consistently on conquering my own heart. I have tried to win my mind and heart over the way Romeo would Juliet. Like any loving relationship, it takes work and effort. There have been setbacks and disappointments. But I have learned to admire myself and feel worthy.
Do you admire your mind, appreciate your beauty, and love yourself?
What follows is my short list for throwing yourself some very good game and making your mind and heart fall in love with you:
First, find your voice. This takes time and work. Do you remember falling in love for the first time? The amount of text messages you exchanged, the conversations that seemed to have no end, the way you could hear that person’s voice calling your name? Well, if you don’t hear your own voice calling your name, you can never really love yourself. For me, I found that voice through my writing; every piece is like a love letter to my soul. For others it’s in their singing, art, or fashion. Regardless of the outcome, the process is the same. Find your voice, and then you’ll be able to hear what your heart yearns for and dreams of.
Next, find a space that’s yours (or more than one). I have written about how I retreat to small towns to find myself every now and then. Those are some of my spaces. Here in Miami, I have a few parks and spots that are so mine, I won’t ever share them with anyone. On Wednesdays, I walk the streets of Wynwood for inspiration. On Thursdays, I take myself to the museum. The point is, I date myself. I buy myself coffee or wine, depending on the time of day and mood I am in. I sit by the river and dream. I used to be afraid to be alone for fear of feeling lonely. Now I realize that loneliness is a mood and that solitude is a privilege and that the two are not one and the same.
Then, become friends with people who love you too. When you fall in love with a person, you want to meet their friends and family. You want to know everything there is to know about that person. And if anyone dares point out a flaw, you are quick to put them in their place and tell them all of the reasons they’re wrong. Well, do that for yourself. Surround yourself with people who love you and can tell you all the reasons why. Don’t settle for unfair critics who interfere with their negative judgements.
Finally, begin to accept compliments. (This is something I learned from the amazing Nicky Valdes.) Once you’ve written yourself songs or love letters in the form of creative passion projects, have taken yourself on a couple of dates, and surrounded yourself by people who appreciate you, there is nothing left but to bask in it. When someone asks to partner up with you at school, see it as a compliment to your intelligence and accept with grace. When your friends ask your help planning for their parties, realize it’s because you are so good at it they need you, and accept with pleasure. When your partner asks for help picking out what to wear, see it as an ode to your fashion sense and opinionate away. The fact is, these requests are little homages to everything that is right with you. Hear what they are saying and listen to the love they’re saying it with. You’d be surprised to find out how much more they see than you do.
It’s interesting, the year I hit rock bottom was the same year I was nominated “Teacher of the Year”. My co-workers and employers hadn’t the slightest clue that I was falling apart at the seams. That same year was the most successful of my career with the highest increase in students’ test scores that I had ever been responsible for. Like a fictitious monster under my bed of adulthood – the fear of failure was purely imagined. In hindsight, I realize now, the real diagnosis should have been lack of love. I did not feel enough love to appreciate myself, or to take care of myself. I couldn’t even manage enough love to wake up and dress myself.
Now, I wake up every single morning excited to explore this beautiful city I get to live in. I take compliments with a smile. I write to my heart’s content on this blog. Now, I have been able to turn my worst enemy – my mind – into my true love.
What things do you do to conquer your heart?