A Love Letter to London

A man named Harrison once believed I was in love with him, but what he never understood was he is the one person who reminded me of my love for London––he was the strongest tether to the feeling I still struggle to describe even today. 

My love never belonged to Harrison; hopefully, he knows that by now as any kind of romantic feelings towards each other have washed away with time. He was a man that I met through a dating app. We must have matched around the 27th of September, roughly eight days into my study abroad trip.

To this day, I still don’t understand how we matched. He lived in Portsmouth, and I lived in London, around 80 miles of rolling hills stood between us, but somehow he slipped into my 5-mile parameter and caught my attention.

Now, imagine spending nearly three-months of your study abroad time consistently talking to one man as you learn to love yourself—like really fall into the person you‘ve dreamt of being. We never met in person, but towards the end of my time in England, I knew I should goodbye. Before my flight took off in December, I had a few more texts left on my burner phone, so I drafted him a message and said my final farewell. His reply sent me into tears.

“Fu** me that went fast! I will definitely be keeping in touch and it’s nice to know you thought of me before you go back. Have a safe flight home and have a good Christmas IF I don’t speak to you before xx”

You are right Harrison, those three months did go by too fast. Saying goodbye to him, meant I finally was saying goodbye to London, and that was never something I could draft in a 160 character text message.

I sat at Heathrow airport, two hours before my flight, bawling into my chest as I sat on the leather seats and I stared down the departure board waiting for my gate to appear on the board. I wiped away tears on my emerald peacoat and shifted my legs as feelings of anxiety and nervousness overcame me.

I had spent the Uber ride to the airport sucking down tears, as I was sharing it with a roommate of mine I barely got to know over our three-month stint living abroad. At six o’clock in the morning, it was hard to know how much my anxiety and emotional state was due to sleep deprivation versus pure sadness, but I came to know just how depressing leaving London would be.

***

Now that I am older, and four years removed from my time in London, I now know I don’t need to hang on a physical being to feel the pull England has on me since the beginning. There was happiness hidden in every Sunday roast, pint of cider, “mind the gap” painted pavement, and brightly-colored townhomes.

Before London, my past seemed to mimick feelings similar to asphyxiation. I felt like I struggled for air under the pressure of not feeling whole––not feeling like myself. I felt out of place for so much of my young years that it was hard to feel like I wasn’t drowning in a skin that wasn’t mine. London allowed me to exhale then inhale with new beginnings for the first time.

Much like the days of my stay fell to the past, the green leaves on the trees in Notting Hill slowly faded into the colors amber, orange, and scarlet until they fell gracefully and collected at the bottom of the tree trunks. They painted the pavement with colors under the dazzling street lights, and every day I returned to my flat, I was entranced. I did not mind that this love was solely a one-way street. I could not overlook the happiness loving London brought me, thus teaching me how to love myself. 

I have only returned to London once since leaving that faithful day in December; that trip was three months later in March. That’s right, I lasted 13 weeks before getting on yet another transatlantic flight back to London. I was only there for a week, but that was enough to remind me that the city wasn’t going anywhere, and my love would continue to ignite in my chest like an ember refusing to submit itself to the ash surrounding it.

So, instead of saying goodbye in March, I knew that I will always feel the love I have for the city. The coordinates from the photo above hang around my neck with the words “Bloom & Inspire” engraved into the gold. For me, that spot in Regent’s Park, in London, was my time to shed everything that felt wrong hanging off my body and rebloom into the dreams that have always inspired me. This blog would have never exsitied had it not been for London, so I keep the city with me in my heart and feel the warmth of my time there until I visit there again.

There are very few cities that I have had such a tremendous effect on my life, like London, but I am looking forward to talking more about the growth I experienced in the town, no matter how short or long my experience there may have been. At times I can feel brokenhearted, as I leave so much of myself behind when I move on to another chapter. But, I am forever indebted to these cities and I wonder will ever be my home once more.

 

Finding Your Light: The Action

A while back I started a series I never followed through with, until today, of course. I talked a little bit about the self-doubt I had been feeling at the time and how it had surpassed a similar doubt I had a few years prior to then. I described the way it flooded my bloodstream with toxic feelings at such force, and I wanted to talk about how I was combating the negative energy. Partially because I wanted to feel strong.

I mentioned that I was starting this multi-part series to invite others to gain insight towards mental health by providing personal experiences that I hoped, in turn, would promote more people to gain an understanding of the significance of mental health. I wanted to make sure individuals knew that you are not alone, there are so many resources out there to better yourself. 

Not too many knew that in 2017, I became crippled under the weight of fear and ached every time I tried to pull myself back up. So I wasn’t heading my own advice, I was isolating myself. I struggled, still struggle, daily with the events surrounding the changes in my life, but the struggle I initially wrote about is gone.

When I first wrote Finding Your Light: The Onset I had no idea what was to come within the next month –– the hole I found myself in July 2018 was a pothole compared to the fault line that eroded my sanity come August 2018. But, I wasn’t wrong in July to discuss my hard times, but what I should have done was listen to my own advice.

When I was at my darkest time, I wrote only one post, and you can feel the pain seeping through the words. I remember having a friend reach out to me the day I posted it. They had read it and wondered if I needed anyone to talk to, but I shook off my issues. I didn’t take my advice to not let the demon consume my happiness, but instead I allowed him thrive in for way too long.

Because of that, my light shattered more, but that seemed impossible. What happens when you drop an already broken piece of glass?  It explodes into more and more fine and fragmented pieces that I, in turn, amounted myself to because I felt like I was a fine mist of dust allowing something invisible to the eye, something such as wind, to take control.

I was sick, mentally and physically, but weakened to nothing past a sleeping vessel that struggled to ever feel rested. I abused myself and my health, and I let insignificant people define my worth. I let depression linger behind my sullen, hazel eyes that were tinged red from the evenings spent overthinking and manifesting fear. 

But I took action, finally, because I needed conversation. I needed a distant bystander who could talk to me and listen. It helped to see a therapist for a few weeks until she tried to take control of the therapy session. I wanted to talk about the flames because I needed help putting them out, but she was too busy trying to forge through the ashes that were lying where objects once were. The dust wasn’t me, but the wind oxygenating the flickering flame emitted an unbearable flame.

The conversations for awhile validated me. They told me the pain wasn’t insanity, and that I could find something better. It reminded me about who I was when I was younger. I knew I struggled with self-confidence. It was almost typical for me to feel down about myself. I had a great friend group, a supportive family, and a bright future, so why was I manifesting on this low time when I should be thankful for all the highs?

The second the therapy would no longer help, was when I gained the confidence back in myself to really believe in who I was and the journey I was on. I was a grad student, thriving in class, and making friendships that were going to matter. Hell Yeah, Hannah, keep kicking butt! I was writing again, for schoolwork, but I was creative again.

But being thankful wasn’t enough because I was still grateful for a handful of the wrong things. I was thankful for toxic relationships, honestly up until the end of 2018. I couldn’t hold on to those people, and I needed to learn to let go. I was thankful for my freedom, both financially and parentally, but I wasn’t following a life destined to be thankful for.

Sometimes I think back to what fun I used to have with some people in the East Village, but leaving it all behind showed me how to bring the happiness back. I wrote a bit about that journey in Relationships After Heartache when I referred to the saga as the “August downfall.” But I learned in isolation I could focus on myself. I wasn’t worried about saying the right thing to someone, striking up the best conversation, or ordering my favorite drink. I wasn’t concerned with making an impression, telling the funniest joke, and worrying about what my friends were saying behind my back. I just was me, alone in my apartment, crying when I needed to but mostly doing the things that strengthened me.

The reason this time was different was because of the way the negative thoughts strained me into a thick pulp without any sustenance. Sometimes I still struggle to let go of the toxic relationships, hoping they just lie in a grave, so I don’t have to deal with goodbyes, but I have learned how to walk away. Because walking away from the sadness was the one thing that brought happiness back?

My sadness in July? I buried it in 2017, looking my anxiety and depression, literally in the eye and forgiving the demon forever reintroducing it in my life. I told him that I am no longer mad, and that is why this time was different. The past showed me that I can stand up and turn away from something I don’t want to be apart of, and I think so many of us can struggle with that part.

I think we worry about the action when it comes to rekindling our light. We fear that it won’t fix anything, but this time was different because I reignited my light in the most mature way compared to the past. I learned I could find even more strength if I just gave myself a chance, so give yourself a chance.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, I urge more to feel comfortable asking for help. Bearing the weight of your friends in times of need is not meant for everyone. If you are in a space in your life where you can be there for others, I hope you utilize your gift as I have in the past. If you personally cannot handle that role, help yourself, and help others to seek personal help. There is nothing shameful for wanting help. Hug more and remind those in your life that you love them, it will make a significant impact on your well being.

 

 

Relationships After Heartache

Summer is a funny season for me. Being raised in Naples, Florida meant that life was an endless amount of warm days, beach visits, and afternoon thunderstorms. To tell you the truth, I kinda, really, sorta, hated it. The only benefit of never-ending 70-80 degree weather was warmer Halloweens––I loved autumn, but I would have probably hated having to wear a jacket over my costume because it was freezing/snowing for trick-or-treating. I guess I was lucky that I could show off my costumes, but we still had to deal with hurricanes; there is the trade-off. Ever cry because you heard they were canceling Halloween because there were ample amounts of standing water and debris from the Hurricane that blew in the week before? No? Just me? (they didn’t cancel it, which means my mom and I grabbed a costume from Party City last minute, I was a ghost, and it was a laughable outfit, to say the least).

Now that I am older and get to decide my home, and by decide, I mean a place where there is a leaf-peeping opportunity close enough to drive to. But now, I find myself feeling more and more uncomfortable when the weather is ever over 70 degrees. Like it is right now in New York. However, I am so thankful August is around the corner.

Now, you may be wondering, “what does this have to do with being in a relationship after a heartache?” Well, one reason I now feel uncomfortable in summer is because of precisely that. For me, my heartbreaks happened in the summer. Now I didn’t pick this, but maybe that correlation/causation theory in psychology wasn’t wrong. Perhaps a spike in ice cream sales does cause murders, just as the stereotypical “uncuffing season” is summer. It makes sense to those people who think this is the time when you are meant to find a fling on your extended stay in the Hampton’s and leave the person you met in the winter behind.

After my previous relationship ended out of the blue in June, I have had a little PTSD surrounding the anxiety and depression I developed in 2017 deemed “the summer of heartache,” and I can see how it influences my now, current relationship. When I touch the month of June, I start over-analyzing my partner’s actions. I tell myself I am trying to be a bit more cautious this time around, you know “pay attention to what the relationship is needing” instead of focusing on what “I needed” as my ex so graciously taught me he valued more when it came to our relationship.

With all this being said, I can see how summer distances some couples. The first thing that pops into my head for a relationship is cuddling. In winter, when the windows are like the walls of an igloo and the heater is clanging, then well cuddle on! Intertwine those legs and wrap your arms around each other like a gift-wrapped beneath a tree. In summer? Forget that closeness. Sometimes even feeling the warmth of my partner’s thigh delicately rubbing against mine on the Subway is enough for my leg to start to sweat and my body temperature to feel like even more of a furnace.

I think, for myself at least, intimacy is so essential for me to feel comfortable in a relationship. It’s a subtle reminder that you are mine and I am yours (unless you cheat, and then well you suck, I’m sorry I am not sorry for saying that). And when I am trying to feel okay after heartache, and its the summer, and I am having flashbacks, the “not being intimate” and “sitting on opposite sides of the couch so you can feel the a/c at the precise position” are scenarios that make me feel insecure.

Luckily this is the second summer with my partner, and time definitely heals those insecurities, but Summer 2018 was definitely my crash course on relationships after heartache. See we had met in winter, lol, which meant we had four months before the hot, humid, and stinky garbage days sept into the streets when we walked around hand in hand. When it hit over 70 degrees, I felt my fear bubbling up like the heat index. We had distanced to the point my partner was unsure of our relationship. When he communicated that to me, at first, all I could think was, “here we go again, Depression.”

But something I learned about Summer 2017, the rollercoaster of a season, was I needed to love myself through the heartbreak. It was h.a.r.d. to limit my emotions to four simple letters. I was a mess: my eating, irregular, my resting heart rate, frantic, and mindset, troubled. I closed off from most but a select few friends. Then I moved. Then I started working towards myself and I was making new friends, I felt like everything was coming around. Then he got into a new relationship within two months of us ending (hello August downfall), and I was destructive. I was mad at him, so why was I taking it out on myself? 

It took time, over seven months for me to feel good dating again. It took six months of me sulking to say no to it all. I took the month of December, once all my finals were handed in, to pay attention to “me”. It was my best decision. I went on long walks while the snow fell and small flakes collected on my hair and hat. I would remember going to Trader Joes at night, explicitly walking through the tunnel of Christmas trees on 11th and 2nd Avenue and finding yummy, healthy food to cook for dinner. I was going to the Strand Bookstore and spending hours in the clearance book section outside, wearing gloves as my fingertips scanned the spines and gathered more novels to add to my ever-growing “read next” pile.

I listened to music that made me happy, wore face masks that rejuvenated my skin, and sat for hours on the couch watching Harry Potter. I was giving back to myself what I had taken away. I was doing everything I could to bounce back from the heartache. It wasn’t till 2018 when I met my current partner. For our first four months, we were the honeymoon stage and then some, but in the beginning, I was slightly hesitant about entering another relationship because the last thing I wanted was another six+ months of me sulking and binge drinking in New York.

Was he going to hurt me, like the other men did? He didn’t, hasn’t. When we got to the summer and got a bit more distanced, we were able to communicate. I heard his doubts about us and was able to sit and talk it out with him. Our future, our feelings, and our frustrations came out. I had never been able to do that with my past relationship; heartbreak taught me that. 

I think it takes time. If you were in love with someone else, and that love has stopped existing, then I think it’s worth you taking the time to reposition the love you were giving to them and give it back to yourself.  I think you know when it’s an excellent time to enter another relationship. **Mind you my ex’s rebound that caused my August Downfall only lasted a few months, so if you are into breaking up with people often, then maybe skip over the refractory period like he did, but if you are like me and care about people’s feelings, care about yourself first. 

After heartache, care about yourself because you deserve it, dating and caring about others after that will follow in due time.

World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.

With my educational background rooted in psychology, I feel personally connected to this cause. I began this journey with this blog to improve my own mental health as well as impact others. As my personal health declines, my post became less frequent until I reached the point of having too much on my plate that there was no time for me to write.

Now I get paid to write. I head into the office and from 8am to 6pm I am sitting behind this very keyboard somehow finding more time to write than I ever had before. I will admit, occasionally the last thing I want to do after writing for 9 hours, is come home and write, but this is my platform.

This is where I can speak about myself and what is on my mind. This is a safe space for me to talk through my struggles and triumphs and reach out to those that follow my blog. My mental escape was and is this space. It is the therapy I could attend when I was in a new city trying to find my way.

My mental health record has been far from perfect. Occasionally I slip into depressive attitudes: I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I don’t deserve the best. For the past year, I have found myself struggling with anxiety and becoming overwhelmed and instantly shutting down.

However, it is October. For me, thinking positively always brings me back to the surface. October is my favorite month. I am finally in a city with the chilly days greet me in the morning when I step outside. I look in the mirror and feel good enough, smart enough, and that I am deserving of the best.

Talking out my insecurities or destructive thinking has always brought myself to the surface and helped me see a more positive picture. I urge you all to reach out if you ever need a person to speak to. I would not be the person I am today if I did not care in the ways that I do.

Mental health awareness is so important. You are not less than someone else for. The stigma does not exist. Together we need to shed light on days like this to break the idea of a stereotype even surrounding the idea of benefiting your health.