Being raised as a strong-willed, independent woman proved to be a blessing. I pride myself on being self-sufficient, hard-working, and responsible. My parents certainly raised me that way, but I began exhibiting those qualities early in life. I was one of those kids who wanted to do things on my own without any help. If I didn’t know how to do something, I would figure it out. And that was before we had the internet!
Asking for help has always been a difficult task for me. It killed me to get tutored during my sophomore year of high school when I was barely passing chemistry. When I injured my knee, it took me nearly two months to suck it up and see a doctor—turns out I needed surgery. After suffering a pulmonary embolism, I terrified everyone around me because I didn’t want anyone to help me with anything.
A few years ago, I was living in New York. I had just been dumped. I was struggling with my job. I hated winter. The city was destroying me, and my anxiety was at an all-time high. I didn’t know what to do. Instead of trying to just figure it out and continue to be miserable, I got help. I found a wonderful therapist, made a ton of life-changing decisions, and started to feel okay again.
Recently, I found myself in a position where I needed some help. As an adult, it’s even more difficult. You want to think you have your shit together and that you can handle it. But you know what? No one our age has their shit together! No one knows what they’re doing. I have an incredible job, a roof over my head, and the best dog ever. And yet life does not seem to be going the way I thought it would. That’s okay!
I’m so #blessed to have an unbelievable support system and recognize that not everyone is so lucky. But everyone should know that you can get help when you need it. You just have to ask.
I’m not sure when asking for help became synonymous with weak or incapable, but that is some bullshit. Don’t listen to that nonsense. It takes an incredibly strong person to realize they can’t do it all alone, so don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about it.
When you look at me on the outside, you won’t see anxiety. You’ll see a relatively put together, smiley, and upbeat woman with a bounce in her curls and a pep in her step. I often greet with an extended “Hiii!” and a hug. Maybe a high five if I’m feeling particularly perky. People see me with a coffee cup and iPhone in hand, be-boppin’ around like I don’t have a care in the world.
If only you knew what was going on in my brain, you guys. People usually don’t believe me when I say I have anxiety because I’m so good at pretending like I don’t. Part of that facade is because of the stigma mental illness has in our society, and the other part is because I want to be happy and normal so I really try. Plus, I kind of hate talking about my problems in person to people I don’t know, and it’s very difficult to explain what anxiety feels like. For me, it feels like I’m drowning but above water and sometimes it makes my head want to pop off of my body. But I digress. You wouldn’t know by looking at me that I struggle with anxiety and depression because I don’t show that side of me to the general public.
So what’s my secret?
Well, first of all, I’m medicated. Secondly, I’m in therapy. And thirdly, I utilize the wonderful world of technology! Since I rarely go anywhere without my phone, I use it to help me in my everyday battle with anxiety. My friends are always asking me what apps I use to conquer my mental health struggles, so here you go:
Yeah, yeah. Everyone and their mother uses Headspace. But there’s a reason: it actually works! I like Headspace because it provides free 10-minute meditation sessions, but it also gives you the opportunity to purchase more packages if you want. There’s no pressure. Plus, the app is super clean, easy to use, and cute.
2. Simply Being
Simply Being is, well, simple. You set your meditation time, music, volume, and voila! You’re on your way to an easy guided meditation. My only caveat is the voice can be a little annoying, but it’s not like nails on a chalkboard or anything.
Breathe is a super cool app. It does provide guided meditation, but what’s really great is that it tailors your session to how you’re feeling that day. You check in and answer questions about your mood, and the app gives you a variety of sessions that will help you specifically based on your needs. And it tracks your meditation progress in a neat chart.
4. CBT-i Coach
I wouldn’t have picked out CBT-i Coach if I had just seen it in the app store. I downloaded it per recommendation of my therapist, who is literally the best. While the app design looks like it’s straight out of Windows ’98, it’s actually very useful. It gives you tips on everything from sleeping to mindfulness, tracks your sleep, and provides guided meditation. You can also schedule alerts that remind you to meditate or stop drinking coffee after 2 PM.
One night, I was perusing the app store during a bought of insomnia, and I stumbled upon Sleep/Relax. The description explained it as a hypnosis app. I figured I’d give it a shot. Within five minutes of putting on the “Sleep Like a Baby” session, I was legit asleep like a baby. Now if I’m ever wide awake at night, I use this app.
“Caitlin, Notes isn’t an anxiety app.” Yeah, you’re right. But when I get anxious, I like to write things down and monitor why I’m feeling anxious at that particular moment. It’s called being aware of your triggers, trick. Anyway, even as a seasoned writer, I for whatever reason don’t always have a notebook or journal around. So I catalog my ~feels~ in Notes. You could use any kind of note-taking app I suppose, but this one is already downloaded and syncs to my computer.
7. Puzzle Game of Choice
You know what I do when I’m really freaking out about something? Well, first I practice mindfulness or meditate and get in the zen zone or whatever. Then, I play a puzzle game. Some might say this serves as a distraction, but see, the loophole is that I am mindful before playing any games! I used to rely on Candy Crush, but it would stress me out to the point of wanting to throw my phone out the window. Now I play a word game called Alphabear. Choose a soothing and/or thoughtful game for your brain. If you do something with words or numbers, it will also boost your knowledge in the process so it’s a win/win.
I’ll level with you: anxiety suuuuucks. I have good days and bad days, but I’ve learned that being active in managing my anxiety is key. If some apps can help you chill the eff out, why not give them a try?
What are your fave anxiety/depression/whatever management apps?
I really don’t *do* resolutions. I feel like you’re just setting yourself up for failure if you give yourself unrealistic goals like lose 20 pounds before Valentine’s Day or something outrageous. That’s why I give myself overarching themes that I can stick with during the year. It puts way less pressure on yourself, and it can actually be enriching.
I did a pretty solid job in January of adhering to my ~life themes~ so I thought I’d share them:
Remove toxic/negative people and things | I’ve spent too much of my short 25 years on this Earth dealing with toxicity and negativity. I’m over it. I don’t have time for people or things that will bring me down. Since cutting out soul-suckers and general bad juju, I feel a million times better.
Say yes to things that scare you | As someone with anxiety, doing things outside of my comfort zone can be quite debilitating. In the past, if I was afraid to do something, you couldn’t pay me to actually do it. But I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t necessarily say “Yes!!” to every opportunity, but I at least say “I’ll try.”
Don’t be an asshat | After spending time in New York, I had become a cranky ole curmudgeon. I’m a nice person! But I became cynical, rigid, and kinda mean. While I have a dry sense of humor and speak in sarcasm, I didn’t like that I was, well, a jerk. So this year, I’m aiming to be a better person in general.
Chill the eff out | I spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying, panicking, and thinking. If you spent a minute inside of my head, you’d probably want to jump off the nearest bridge. I need to relax so I’m working on meditating every day (even if it’s just for 10 minutes), taking more bubble baths, and just breathing.
Don’t be so obsessed with your phone | In 2015, I took a shit-ton of pictures and videos of various things and activities. I was so busy capturing those moments that I didn’t actually get to enjoy them. I love having a smartphone and being in touch with the world, but I’ve been living through my phone. In 2016, I’ve been putting my phone away, putting it on “Do Not Disturb” mode at night, and even *gasp* turning it off completely. I do bring my phone with me everywhere for safety purposes, but there is no more checking texts at dinner.
Did you make resolutions for the year? Have you kept up with them so far?
It’s been a while, huh?
Here’s a basic breakdown of events:
August 2012 | moved to New York
January 2013 | worked as an editor at Gurl.com
September 2014 | moved back to Atlanta
August 2015 | left Gurl.com
August 2015-present | traveled, lived, wrote a book, hung out with my dog
I’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers on the internet about why I left my job and what I’m doing with my life. I don’t owe it to anyone to answer said questions, really. But resigning from your job which provides you with a stable income at 25 is not common. It’s frowned upon, actually.
We’re raised to go to college, graduate, get a job, and have a career.
No one tells you how messy that will be. No one tells you about the soul-crushing anxiety you might experience. No one tells you about the imposter syndrome you’ll have. No one tells you how horrible it is to really have adult expenses.
No one tells you that no one has any damn idea what they’re doing.
But, most importantly, no one tells you that it’s okay to take a break and change the course of your life.
I had a wonderful job where I got to write every day for an incredible audience of over 6 million viewers per month. I was part of a closely-knit team, surrounded by strong women whom I admired. I had a tremendous amounts of flexibility and freedom. I was in New York City! I was living the dream. I was happy.
Except that I wasn’t.
New York is one of my favorite places in the world. But it is not one of my favorite places to live. Crippling rent aside, I was drowning in fear, self-doubt, depression, anxiety, and stress. I was exhausted and nearly became an alcoholic to cope. There’s a reason most people look miserable in the city: because they’re miserable.
Yes, I had fun and experienced so much magic and wonder and awe. But I wasn’t happy.
So I left.
I came home to my loving family and set up shop back in my childhood bedroom, which is quite weird when you’ve been on your own for a while. Fortunately, I have great parents who love and support me and who missed me enough to invite me back to the house! I was working remotely. I got a puppy! I didn’t have to get on the subway. I was in a new relationship. I was happy.
Except that I wasn’t.
I was happy-ish. I got out of said relationship, which ended up being a blessing. At that point, I started reevaluating my life again. I thought that coming home would solve my problems, but it didn’t. It certainly helped, but it didn’t magically make anything perfect. I realized I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I love to write, but I was just going through the motions. I wasn’t putting out my best work or writing things I actually wanted to.
So I left.
Resigning from a job is scary, but I was relieved. For the first time in three years, I was able to just breathe. I took time off to rest, travel, go to yoga, sleep, work on a book, paint, hang out with my dog, and do all of the things I didn’t have time to do before. I recharged my batteries. I’m happy.
Some people looked at me like I was batshit insane when I said I left my job without having another job lined up. But that was the plan. At 25, I was so stressed out that I wasn’t enjoying my life. My plan was to not have a plan. For someone who used to plan out every hour of every day, it feels pretty damn good to go with the flow for once.
I don’t know what I’m doing next, and that’s okay. It’s awesome, even, because I’ve had time to really figure out what I want in my career and my life. What’s the point if you’re just going through the motions of something you think you’re supposed to do?
At the end of the day, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and be able to sleep at night. If you’re not happy with how things are going in your life, you’re the only one who can make changes. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing because we’re all just fumbling around trying to figure shit out.