Responding to Fear with Curiosity

As difficult as this time in quarantine has been—with the isolation, civil unrest, and anxiety sprouted from seeds of uncertainty—it has also been a beautiful period of growth.

I’m not the only one of my friends who have expressed gratitude for this time, which isn’t to discredit the terror and panic others are feeling and that I have also experienced. But for many who were blessed with unemployment benefits, usually (and sadly) greater than their typical paycheck, unemployment has been a blessing in disguise. It has allowed us to take a break from the “Rise and Grind” hustle culture that dominates this country. A culture that measures success by overwork and exhaustion, where giving 100% is not good enough or expected.

This unexpected break has also given me the opportunity to remove myself from the day-to-day comparisons of others, and I’m finally learning to love myself for who I am. I’ve been able to reflect on my perception of myself, and I’ve noticed that being away from most people for all these months has shrunk the frequency of my own criticisms of my perceived shortcomings. Rather than spending my days focused on what I lack, I’m focused on what I have, and how I can continue to utilize my gifts, skills, and talent on things that make me happy.

A match has been lit within me in the past six months, and has developed into a roaring fire of curiosity and excitement to learn what else I am capable of. I’ve already grown more than I ever expected to, and fear tells me I have more power to gain, more skills to learn, more creativity to expand. Fear means it’s time to once again step out of my comfort zone to create something bigger and better.

On the Mat: Establishing an Imperfect Yoga Practice

Yoga for Perfectionism

My new yoga practice is both consciously and unconsciously challenging my perfectionism. Especially as a beginner in quarantine, without an instructor to show or help me with proper poses, pretty much everything I do is imperfect. And despite knowing this, I still choose to show up on my mat every day and try…I think that’s what yoga is all about…showing up, even when it’s messy or imperfect.

I’ve been struggling with meditation recently because I found I’m not great at the concept of “noticing your thoughts as clouds passing by, without holding onto or judging them.” In the last week I told a friend that rather than observing my thoughts as clouds, I cause a storm of clouds that hover above me and drench me in rain. I’ve been encouraged to treat meditation like a skill that requires practice, just like photography or writing.

On the mat the other day, I was in the middle of a particularly challenging yoga practice that woke up a lot of muscles I don’t normally use. After I transitioned out of a difficult pose back into downward dog, it took me a few breaths to realize I wasn’t holding proper form of this resting pose and was sort of collapsing in on myself because of my tired muscles. When I became aware of my improper form, I simply readjusted, pushing away from the earth and dropping my shoulders. Upon reflection later that day, I realized I had unconsciously done what I always tell myself I’m so bad at in meditation: I noticed my form was wrong, and, without judging myself for getting it wrong, I just readjusted and moved on with the practice. There wasn’t time to linger on my “mistake,” because I breathed into the next pose and was so grounded that I stayed in the present.

Yoga for Body Positivity

Yoga is helping me see my body differently, more than I’ve ever been able to before, and in an entirely new way. We discussed body positivity in my ED treatment program, but it wasn’t until I continued to show up on my mat that I fully grasped the concept.

When my lungs expand and contract, I am grateful that my body is able to keep me alive, most of the time without me even being conscious of it. When I stand in tadasana, or mountain pose, I am grateful that my bones support me as I stand, sit, walk, and go about my life. When I move through different poses, I am grateful to my muscles for allowing me to do the things I love and even the things I don’t, usually with ease and obliviousness. When I lay in savasana, or corpse pose, I am grateful to my body as a whole, for performing so many simultaneous complex functions that allow me to breathe, walk, talk, and think, let alone feel, emote, create, and do the million other things that make me me.

Yoga has given me the beautiful chance to stop criticizing my body for what I perceive as “faults,” and be grateful for just how many things it can do, that I normally never acknowledge.

Yoga for Willfulness

Listen…I am stubborn. My willpower is sub par. When I have a bad day, it is easy for me to pass on the difficult tasks. Lately, I’ve found that the days when I really don’t want to show up on my mat are the days that I notice the most improvement in my mood from the beginning to the end of my practice. And knowing that helps me push past my stubbornness. To show up, even when I desperately do not want to. Because the feeling at the end always trumps the feeling at the beginning. Feeling proud. Accomplished. Inspired.

Yoga for High Sensitivity

One of the benefits of yoga, I’ve found, is its ability to safely and gently connect the body and the mind. One of the skills I am currently developing is interoception, or the ability to sense what is happening inside the body at any given time, and acting on that awareness.

Lately, my HSP trait has felt like a foghorn, glaringly obvious and isolating me from everyone around me. On a regular basis people point out my self-awareness or my natural ability to self-reflect, and I’m left thinking Does nobody else think about themselves this way? When I asked this question to my therapist this week she smiled and shook her head, “Nope.” It’s funny how much I continue to learn about this trait and how it separates me from everyone else, as I’ve always felt like an outcast, and now I’m finally understanding why.

However, my natural tendency to be self-reflective has helped me in my yoga practice. Yoga is all about inner-awareness and this interoception, so as I allow my breathe to lead my movement on my mat, I feel more attuned to my body and its needs than I’ve ever been before. This practice helped me be honest with myself about my meal plan; being more aware of what my body was telling me helped me recognize hunger cues I may not have otherwise been aware of. With a slight adjustment, I now feel back on track and my body thanks me!

Yoga for Radical Acceptance

I am a highly sensitive person with multiple chronic and mental illnesses. I am in recovery from a painful, consuming eating disorder. I experience PTSD from my chronic illness and subsequent anxiety. All of these facets are a part of what makes me me. Denying them or being angry with them won’t make them any less true. I am in a period of transition and acceptance of the shitty things that have happened to me. I’ve realized that holding onto anger or resentment about these things only cripples me further and keeps me in a place of stuckness. If I can’t embrace my body for all of its intricacies, talents, and flaws, how can I embrace a true yoga practice? Radical Acceptance is a skill I learned in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and it’s never made more sense to me than it does when I’m sitting on my yoga mat, grateful for what my body can do for me.

Resources that Helped Me:

  • “I Am Maris” — a documentary on Netflix about a teenager who uses yoga as a part of recovery from an eating disorder
  • Eat Breathe Thrive — a nonprofit founded to prevent and help individuals overcome eating disorders through community, mindfulness, and yoga
    • Eat Breathe Thrive’s “Yoga for Eating Disorder Recovery” course
  • Yoga with Adriene — a YouTube Yogi whose channel offers yoga videos for everyone and everything
  • Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice — a book by Baron Baptiste that offers up excellent tools to help yogis show up, both on and off the mat

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the sky is stuffed with clouds
and moisture fills the cracks in my lips
wide as canyons as I tear through flesh
searching for some control or maybe
another way to live that isn’t quite so
disappointing
How does one exist without
splattering thoughts against concrete
reaching for hands you thought
were extended but no
it’s only the limbs of trees planted
long before your body
was used as leverage in
this war with humanity
How does the wind not have
a backache from all that it carries
Can it teach me what to do with
all of these secrets because
I don’t recognize my own scent
and I’ve got pheromones like
a child forcing a jigsaw
into its proper shape
and what will my limbs look like
once the chaos finds its footing

through her eyes

This morning I woke up at 4am to get the chance to have my favorite portrait photographer— Julia Trotti— edit one of my photos on her YouTube live stream. She ended up editing my submission around 6am, and while I was utterly exhausted, it was so exciting to see her process. I realized what I loved most about it was how her edit was drastically different than mine.

This is the photo I submitted to be edited by Julia Trotti, with my original edits.

One of my favorite things about photography is that there will never be the same two photographers. Everyone has a different perspective to offer; even among people you are closest to or have the most in common with, everyone sees the world differently. I remember in the first week of my freshman Cultural Anthropology course (one of the “dreaded” general education classes I was required to take in college) we learned the definition of “worldview.” I have never forgotten this word or this concept. Everyone sees the world through their own specific lens, because everyone has different backgrounds/personalities/home lives/home locations/opinions/beliefs/culture/values/etc. Some people are color blind and only see the world in monochrome. Some grew up with only one parent in their home. Some grew up in a generic, middle class, suburban subdivision. Some got their GED. Some speak multiple languages. Some were adopted. All of these things, whether based on their external environment or their biology, impact someone’s worldview.

This nature vs nurture concept plays a huge role in someone’s worldview. Not one person is the same. It’s intriguing if you think about it. Even my partner, who shares similar reactions to my own when watching a favorite TV show or movie, is still having a different experience while watching it than I am. I love that idea. Maybe it’s why I love photography so much. I can capture a moment and share it with the world, editing the image to try and help you see it how I do, and you will still see a different photo than me. You will have your own reaction or experience looking at my photo than your mom will. Or your spouse. Or your neighbor.

Screen grab of Julia Trotti’s live stream and her final edit on the same photo I shared above. Notice the differences?

Art is so subjective. As I told my partner earlier today: If you give 10 photographers the same photo to edit, you will end up with 10 very different photos. That is the beauty of art. What’s more, you can carry this concept over to the state of our world right now, and maybe it will show you how “essential” means something different to everyone, or why some people are feeling particularly tense right now while others are experiencing relief or joy in this time of isolation. Perspective matters.

Keep creating, friends. This is a scary time; allow your emotions to bleed into your art. I want to see how you see the world. Let’s allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be raw and unapologetic. Creativity breeds authenticity and vice versa. No time like quarantine to explore yourself, your perspective, and perhaps seek to understand the perspective of others.

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2020 Vision

I’m stepping into this new year- into this new decade- feeling a sense of calm and clarity. I’ve realized that I finally have some semblance of a grasp on my health, both physical and mental. I was planning on diving into what led me to this eye-opening moment in my life, but decided to save it for a future post. Got to keep you wanting more, I suppose. Instead, I will say this:

I have never shied away from discussing my mental illnesses on this blog. And I’m not about to start now. 2020 will be the year I embrace the role of advocate, and start being more proactive about trying to help others who struggle with their mental health like I do. I have many goals for the new year. I aim to reclaim my identity as an artist, and embrace my creativity, however messy or even lackluster it may be at times. I aim to allow my individuality to continue to exist while I grow alongside another human, my partner, and recognize that I can do both at the same time. I aim to push myself to be the best version of me that I can be. I aim to pursue my passions, especially the new ones that terrify me. And I aim to work harder, and share more of my journey here with all of you.

When I created this blog during treatment for my eating disorder, I awakened part of myself I never knew I needed. Writing on this website helped me in ways I never imagined, and taught me a lot about myself and the kind of person I want to be. So, here we are in a new year and a new decade, and I’ve decided not to hold myself back. To acknowledge that I am not perfect, nor will I ever be, and that sometimes pursuing my dreams and pushing myself through depression and anxiety will be hard as hell. But I will continue to move forward. I will continue to pursue my dreams, be ambitious, write freely, and try not to judge myself too harshly along the way. I hope you will join me for the adventures.

Happy New Year, all. Congratulations on making it this far. Let’s keep going.

Reframed: The Series of Hope & Bravery

My big exciting news that I mentioned in yesterday’s post has to do with my Reframed photo series (found here).

While I can’t say what the news is specifically (yet), I will tell you that the series is expanding! I have around 20 new models- many strangers- who have agreed to share the most vulnerable parts of themselves with me and my camera. It has been so inspiring.

I’m meeting so many people who have been brave enough to share their story with me; I can’t wait to share them with all of you. This has been an incredibly moving process, and I can’t believe that my small project may make such a large impact on others.

I want to thank those who have, and who will, participate in this project with me. I applaud your bravery for coming forward and making a difference in the world. This series is doing huge things when it comes to breaking down the stigma of mental health, and I am so happy you are a part of it.

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EXPOSURES!

Hello beautiful people!

Today was a very big day for me! A lot of people saw I made multiple Instagram Live videos to share some exciting announcements that I’ve got for y’all! I figured folks who don’t have Instagram would want to hear the news, too, so here you go!

First of all, drumroll…

I’m starting a podcast!

Yes, you read that correctly! I’m putting myself out there and am starting a podcast that will also be titled Putting Down the Rope. I plan on branching off of this blog and diving more into mental health and its relationship to art. I will be interviewing guests, accepting stories from folks who would prefer to remain anonymous (and I will read the stories on the podcast), and featuring music/poetry/writing/art in any auditory medium (and will even link to visual art in the description of the podcast).

If you would like to be involved, PLEASE send me an email at PuttingDownTheRope@gmail.com. I will always be available to chat, bounce ideas around, and hear your story. This podcast is about you as much as it is about me.

Now, second of all…

I am raising money to fund my new project that merges mental health awareness with art! You can see the inspiration for my project here.

Basically, I want to show others that art can be used as a coping skill for things like self harm, poor body image, recovery from eating disorders or addictions, and beyond. The concept is that my subjects paint their bodies on parts of themselves they find the most vulnerable, or parts of themselves they struggle with. For me, it was self-harm. I knew using paint would be a more effective skill than actually self harming, and it actually had a better result in the long run.

My overall goal is to show others that they are seen, they are beautiful– because I think folks with mental illnesses often get overlooked or don’t think they’re special or beautiful– and above all, they are not alone. 

The problem is, I currently don’t have the key ingredient to this project: a camera!

So, I started a GoFundMe! My anxiety was very much telling me not to publish that, but here it is. I need help to make this dream a reality. I plan on buying a super cheap DSLR and the lens my friend recommended for portraits. I believe wholeheartedly in this project, and I think it will take off.

I would so appreciate any donation you can give. You can find the link at https://www.gofundme.com/cameraphoto-series.

Thirdly…

I made today’s Instagram live videos an added exposure and I played a song I recorded on live video. Un-flippin’-real.

Those who know me are very aware that I hate singing in public, or in front of anyone, really. Yet, today, I did the thing I have been most terrified of for a many, many years now. And it feels awesome. Just had to share that with the blog. 🙂 #WarriorPrincess

Lastly…

I’ve had some major mental health setbacks lately. And here I am, coming back swinging. I am so excited about life and what life has to offer, and I want to inspire others to find that spark, that zest for life, too!

I’m telling you, when you put down that rope, the world opens up. I can’t wait to share all that will follow.

Endless love to all!

K

Being a Multipotentialite: The Intimidation Factor

Recently, I came across a TEDx Talk called “Why Some of us Don’t Have One True Calling.” In it, Emilie Wapnick discusses the notion that there are individuals out there who bounce from one interest to another, and why doing that is not necessarily a bad thing.

She calls them “multipotentialites,” aka people with many interests and creative pursuits. I fall under the multipotentialite category. In fact, I am specifically a “mixed-style multipotentialite,” meaning I fall more into the right-brain side, and am happiest when I have a few different projects on my plate, but I get overwhelmed when I have too much variety. Sometimes I go through periods where I am working on many different projects, and others where I am deeply invested in one single thing.

I enjoy being a multipotentialite, even though some people don’t fully understand it. Some think I’m just being indecisive, or that I’m impressionable. Emilie taught me that being a multipod actually means I have superpowers that others don’t have. Some of those include the ability to wear many hats, fast skill acquisition, and idea synthesis. My love of many different things has provided me with an exploratory mind; one that I have used to my advantage when applying for jobs or getting projects done at work.

Now, I get to the tough part. There are many things that interest me, and there are things that I want to learn how to do, such as playing the bass, writing poetry, or doing portrait photography. I also am an activist who wants to get involved (usually in some creative way) in many different issues; mental health awareness, anti-rape and sexual assault advocacy, domestic violence prevention, ending human trafficking, eating disorder education, and more.

The reason all of these things is so tough to have rolling around in my head, is because my social anxiety tells me that I shouldn’t try new things because I won’t be good at them and I’ll just embarrass myself. I get intimidated because there are always people who will be better at playing the bass, have more poetry books published, know more about the efforts to end human trafficking, etc. etc. and I wonder why I should try if I’m only going to make a fool of myself?

My anxiety challenges the multipod in me. I have the desire to explore so much of what the world has to offer, and yet I feel hindered in doing so.

My depression also limits me as a multipotentialite. I have a very difficult time focusing, my memory is not very good, and it’s hard for me to stay motivated on the projects that excite me. And, of course, depression’s number one symptom is the lack of enjoyment in things you once enjoyed. So, when I have a number of projects that I had started that suddenly become uninteresting to me, it drags my motivation down further.

I hesitated writing this for a long time. I didn’t want to out myself as an unproductive multipotentialite. But I wouldn’t be staying true to the blog if I didn’t write about my experience with my mental health and how it affects me day-to-day.

I am still exploring how to fight this depression and anxiety, through various therapy modalities and medications. My meds were helping for a time, but now I’m back in the funk I have been in all my life. Unmotivated, unwilling, hopeless.

However, I am not completely without hope! I have been exploring Emilie’s website, Puttylike, and I’m seeing a new psychiatrist soon who will hopefully get me on meds that will make me feel like more of a functioning human. I want to be the full-blown multipotentialite that I know is lying dormant inside of me. I want to be the most productive bass-playing, photograph-taking, poetic activist that ever was! I know I can get there. I just can’t allow myself to get discouraged by the journey my anxiety and depression take me on every once in a while.