It Saved Me

Lifestyle/Personal

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I’ve been dealing with anxiety for as long as I can remember. In high school I would lose sleep over exams, homework, and friendships. In University I lost ten pounds over an exam. My heart was constantly in my throat, my head ached, and I felt nauseous beyond recognition. I went to the doctor and she recommended anti-anxiety medication to help get me through. I was firmly against it; I shouldn’t have to take pills to get through my day or my life. My doctor wrote me a prescription but I never filled it. I was able to self-talk and get through it on my own.

Fast forward seven years, the anxiety still loomed its ugly head but never to the extent it had during university. I could control it, handle it, and even forget about it from time to time. Writing helped, falling in love helped, talking to my family helped; I was on the right path. Until my life completely changed; I went from two part time jobs and writing to a full-fledge office job, purchasing a condo, and getting engaged in less than five months.

To most people these would be considered good things, in fact, that should have been the best time of my life. Those five months were the hardest months of my life. I struggled immensely at my new job. Training was simple: dive in with the sink or swim mentality, which I see now is necessary for the line of work I’m in. It weighed me down though; every single day I failed. I became anxious every time the phone rang, I made so many mistakes, I received lectures that would eventually teach me something, and I spent the better part of two months crying. I’d sob in the bathroom or on the way to work, I’d tear up on the way home or even in my boss’s office. I felt like a failure. I was broken.

I was upset that the job I had wasn’t in my field of study, that I didn’t have time to write, that the job itself was demanding and stressful. I would wake up every morning with a pain in my chest and bouts of nausea. I’d come home from work with a headache and a poor attitude.

After I got engaged I thought I would be better, allow myself to be happy, make the most of my job. But I didn’t. I began to stress about wedding plans, finances, and who would be offended by what. My family became worried, my fiancé didn’t know what to do. He got frustrated and offended. I didn’t feel like kissing let alone having sex, I was upset, anxious, and depressed. We got into many heated arguments over it. I am not spending the rest of my life like this. This is supposed to be the happiest time in our lives, he said to me. I agreed but couldn’t get the darkness out of my soul. Every morning was a battle, every evening a war-zone.

It was around the time of my third week at the new job that my mom suggested I go see the doctor. She wanted me to start taking anxiety medication. Both my mother and father had been on anxiety medication and swore by it. I, however, needed a little bit more convincing. After work one Thursday evening I went to see my family doctor. It was dark, dreary, and pouring; a reflection of my heart. After melting down in front of my doctor, she prescribed a pill that I could take when I felt the anxiety coming. It was a bandaid that could help get me through the morning.

Three weeks later I was out of pills and more anxious than ever. This pill didn’t heal or help, it just made me feel like a partial-zombie for an hour. The next time I saw her she prescribed something a little different. It would be a six-month stint, where I would take one pill a day, upping my dosage in increments, then weaning myself off it in six months.

In spite of the side effects – nausea and dizziness – I felt like a completely different person. I was more calm and less irritable, my anxiety a mere whisper as oppose to a deafening roar, I felt happier more often, and I got tonnes of uninterrupted sleep. I had simply become myself again; my fiancé and I were back to having fun and being in love, I could sit outside with my family without itching for a fight or longing to be alone, I hadn’t cried at work or to work since I started taking my medication, and I found the work load more manageable.

Just to be clear, I’m not a pill-pusher. I’m not telling you that you need medication to be happy or that it’s the only way. What I’m trying to say is that it’s worked for me. Pride can kill you in more ways than asking for help can. My help came in the form of a yellow and white pill; yours might be therapy or jogging or self-talking or reading or screaming or a simple conversation with a friend. Anxiety is awful and we all experience it on some level but we can fight it together. Asking for help saved my relationship, my family life, and my job.

I stopped taking my medication before the six months were up. I stopped taking them before Alex’s surgery and my dad’s but the amazing thing is that I handled the anxiety better than ever. Everything that has happened put life into perspective. Instead of needing the pills I take every day one at a time, I don’t take on more than I can handle, and I remind myself that I have one life, and it’s up to ME to make it great.

 

Xoxo,

Vanessa

5 Simple Rules [on trb blog]

Just for Fun, Products and Brands

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You may not be seeing posts as often as you’re used to on My Pen, My Voice, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing. I’ve started contributing to The Red Bow Blog and my first post went up yesterday!  Check it out here and stay tuned for another short story in Passion8 Mag, as well as, some new posts right here on My Pen, My Voice.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo 

Tears in the Parking Lot of a Coffee Shop

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

After a particularly stressful week, I found myself in the Country Style parking lot bursting with tears. I went through the drive through for my Thursday morning pick-me-up and ordered a dark roast regular while trying to wipe away my tears. The woman who served me my coffee was taken aback and curious, which only made me cry harder. Alice in Wonderland could not compare with the state of emergency my car was in. It took over twenty minutes for the tears to cease, for me to feel empty and ready to drive away.

The ebbs and flows of life never seize to amaze me. One minute you’re working at a pizza place with all the time in the world to pursue your passion, the next, you’re not. One minute you’re trying to figure out your next move, the next you’ve purchased a condo, gotten engaged, and started a new job. One minute your back-up job is waiting for you, the next it’s closed down. That much change in so little time left me with no opportunity to completely digest. All of these good things, new experiences, and hearty planning had me feeling more overwhelmed than I realized.

I know that all of these things are wonderful, exciting, and necessary. I’m equally excited and stressed about all of them. I know that they are moments worth celebrating, moments that I will never forget. I know that all of those tears were a mix of a million different emotions climaxing at the less-than-perfect time of the month.

I know that each week is a fresh start and I can certainly *cheers to that!

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Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

What is Happy?

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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I had a thought yesterday and it created another thought, which rolled into another, and then into a labyrinth of the best thoughts that could be thunk. But then the phone rang. POOF! Gone. My life has become a series of cycles; planning, researching, working, budgeting.

Apparently that is what growing up is all about. On my drive to work I often think about happiness, I look at the person in the car next to me and wonder if they’re happy. I wonder if they like their job, if they’re passionate about what they do. I imagine what their home-life, love-life, and hobbies are. I wonder, what is happy?

My happy comes in the form of moments. My niece’s smile, a perfectly written sentence, my fiance’s hand reaching for mine, a drive up north, having dinner with my family, crying over a character in a book, saying something smart or witty enough to evoke laughter from someone. My happy comes from something more than 9-5, although I do leave the office feeling accomplished and useful, my life will always be about more than that.

That is my happy. What’s yours?

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Shed your Skin

Lifestyle/Personal

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Those days are going to come and go. The days where you feel inadequate as a writer, noticing the strides other people are making, wondering why you’re not working hard enough to make them yourself. The days where the words get stuck in your brain, turning into a web of thoughts that cannot untangle. The days when you go to work with the most positive attitude and whimper in the bathroom because you’re making mistakes or feel overwhelmed. The days where nothing you do is right, or even enough. One of those days where you feel like shedding your skin and starting fresh.

Days and weeks where your anxiety becomes so intense it paralyses you, body and mind. You make an appointment with the doctor and the hairdresser on the same day at the same time. You forget about that story you started writing or that you promised to get together with a friend. It gets so bad that you feel sick ever day, your head aches, and your body sore. Those days where you take the anti-anixety pills your doctor gave you, but they just make things worse. They turn you into some kind of zombie, The Walking Dead are more alive than you.

But then there’s a day where everything is okay. Not just okay, but magical in its closeness to perfection. A day where you feel good, write well, and work better. Where a smile doesn’t leave your face and laughter widens your mouth letting through a booming sound known as pure, innocent happiness. A day where you know in your heart of hearts that you are loved, that you love others, and that even the bad days aren’t so bad at all.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Photo from Pinterest*

Birds Fly

Lifestyle/Personal

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A great friend sent me that quote last night after I regailed her with my most recent insecurities and fears. I told her how my anxiety has been giving me loads of nausea and mental blocks. How it’s been poking away at my confidence and turning it to some variation of mushy fear. After I read that quote and she gave me the ever so subtle reminder that MISTAKES ARE OKAY, ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU LEARN AND TRY, I felt my confidence boost.

As I watch the birds fly strong and proud in their V formation, I’ll remember that I is smart, I is strong, I can do anything.

Sending sunshine and confidence to you on this rainy morning!

Love Always,
Vanessa Xo

*Posted from my Moto X

 

Hello February

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal
From the Reiss Blog

From the Reiss Blog

Not that I like to wish my time away but I am so happy that January is over! Good-bye to the January Blues, hello to almost Springtime, melted snow, and sunshine. In spite of the recent loss of my MacBook Air (as well as all of my photos on it), I’m feeling positive about this month and promise to sprint out of my comfort zone and create positive changes in my life.

This week I’m going to my local library to chat with the Manager of Youth Services about speaking at one of their Teen Writer’s Workshops. This is awesome for a number of reasons – firstly, I’ve never spoken to anyone about my writing in that kind of setting. I’ve always wanted to talk to teens and help them find their voice, although given that this is a Writer’s Workshop, they all have probably developed their own voice and are working on getting it heard. Also, I haven’t spoken to a group of people since… well since I had to give presentations in University. I’m excited to chat with the Manager and find out exactly what I’ll be doing/saying to these young writers. Stay tuned for more on that!

What else am I going to do this month to sprint out of my bubble? Well, I’m thinking about creative ways to present my resume online. You all know that I’m looking fiendishly for a career in publishing, the trouble is that many people are. I have to figure out a way to stand out from the crowd and I hope that this will be the month where something clicks.

I’m also going to write with the same persistence and ferocity that I did during NaNoWriMo. I’m currently working on a sequel to My Pen, My Voice and in spite of the fact that it will take me four more years to complete (you’ll understand once it’s finished), I have a lot of work to do. I also want to complete my novella entitled Demons and begin a YA novel that’s been floating around my mind for YEARS.

Finally, this month I want to connect more with people. I want to make the time to see my friends or talk to them on the phone. I want to get together with my cousins and really talk to them. I want to become a better listener, a less selfish friend, and a better human being. I think I forget how important these kinds of connections are in life and I’ve been longing for some human interaction, the kind that doesn’t involve emoticons or filters.

Welcome to February!

The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within. – William C. Bryant

Love always,

Vanessa Xo

* Quote from BrainyQuote.com

Public Service Announcement

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

There was a time when I could sit on my bed with a notebook and write for hours, or simply get lost in my own thoughts. Now I’m constantly reaching for my phone out of boredom or fear of my own thoughts. My cellphone addiction began the moment I added unlimited texting to my plan. I was 17. Between the ages 18 and 22 I went through more phones than I can remember: I always wanted the latest gadget. When data plans became an option and I learned how to use apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and later on Instagram, my entire social life was no longer based on 3D tangible people, who could talk to me or touch me. It became a vast world that I could hold in the palm of my hand. Over the years I’ve gotten into many fights with my friends, boyfriend, and family over ALWAYS having my phone on me. I realized late last year that I am addicted to my cellphone, social media, and the way I am perceived on such platforms. The internet has taken over my life. It’s made me feel small and useless.

From Pinterest

From Bloglovin

I decided that in 2015 I would take control of my life and my social media habits. As a start, I deleted Facebook. Why? Facebook is a creeping mechanism where I look at people from my past and feel sorry for myself. It’s been about two weeks since my last Facebook sign in and I don’t miss it one bit. It gives me one less reason to reach for my phone, one less excuse to put off this article, that story, or my job hunt. The next step is removing Twitter from my phone and only using it when I go on my computer. I love Twitter and have connected with so many brands and bloggers because of it, but I have a problem: NO ONE SHOULD SPEND 7 HOURS ON TWITTER TRYING TO WIN A NEW PHONE. No one.

After Twitter the next mountain to climb will be Instagram. I share everything on Instagram only the good things on Instagram. I’ve written about this before and it still irks me that I find myself obsessed with capturing, filtering, and sharing every moment. When I scroll through my 1300 photos I see a happy book-obsessed woman, with a loving boyfriend, great friends, and wonderful family. She doesn’t have any bad photos of herself, nor does she have photos documenting the fight she had with her boyfriend over something stupid. She doesn’t have photos representing her insecurities or her failures. She is a photoshopped and filtered version of me. I feel like Instagram has made me lose sight of who am I and what I want. I’m obsessed with other people and what they’re doing. I compare my relationship, job, milestones, and friends to theirs. One of their accomplishments belittles mine, one perfect selfie makes me feel hideous. I realized that Instagram and I had an issue when on the stroke of midnight of New Year’s Eve I was clicking away on Instagram instead of making out with my boyfriend in front of my family. I was too busy looking for the next “I said Yes” photo so I could “like” it and feel utterly jealous. What a way to start a new year.

The truth is that I’m tired of keeping up with the Joneses. I’m tired of trying desperately to be a top blogger (mucking with my content because I think I want to be like this blogger or that one). I’m tired of feeling like I owe the world my privacy. I’m tired of feeling anxious when my phone rings because I don’t speak on the phone too often. Something must change. I’m only a week into the new year and I must say that I find fewer reasons to pick up my phone. Apart from sending out a few tweets and pinning on Pinterest, my phone has become a, well, a phone. Phone calls and text messages only. I haven’t been carrying it around with me, I’ve been looking at phone plans with less data, and I’ve actually had more time to write, work, and read. I feel lighter.

There are some days where I wonder if I’m going the right way about this. I’m a blogger, I SHOULD be on social media. I mean how does a blogger who’s taking a step back from technology, blog? There’s no way I can approach companies or brands and ask to try out products or work with them if I don’t have Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It’s bad enough that I don’t have Google+, Foursquare, or Snapchat. It’s jarring to think about but I am still committed to reviewing only products that I love (especially books), sharing things that I use, and working with brands that truly understand the sentiment behind my blog. I may not have the same reach as I once did but this blog has never been about gaining validation or reaching the whole world. It started as a place to write, to learn, to grow, and to remember.

That is how it will remain, until my very last post.

Love always, 
Vanessa XX

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

It comes for you when you least expect it: comfort bordering on laziness or giving up. You get into a new routine that suddenly becomes an old routine. You don’t feel like leaving the house, or having adventures. The thought of staying out late gives you anxiety. You forgot how much you’ve accomplished in the last year by taking little chances, taking big risks, and leaving it all out on the line. You suddenly start to care about what everyone else thinks about you and can’t make a concrete decision without talking to everyone you value. Instead of helping, this just jumbles your head with possibilities, all of which seem impossible to you. You forget to do the things you love and worse of all, forget why you love them in the first place. You need to relocate your passion and understand your desires.

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I am a victim of my own mind; accepting comfort and all of its dangerous forms. I tend to believe that the grass is always greener on the other side, but sometimes I forget to take care of my own lawn. I am a victim of self-induced paralyzing fear. If I am a product of my childhood, I still walk around in a bubble, but this time it’s of my own doing. If I don’t try anything new, I’ll never learn or grow. Comfort is great and accepting certain unalterable aspects of your life is fine, but not when you’re only twenty-five.

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– Vanessa

That Time I Met Noreen Flanagan [10k Coffees Meet up]

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal
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Yesterday I was part of a lucky group of three that got to sit down for coffee with Noreen Flanagan, Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Canada. The group-chat was set up by Ten Thousand Coffees, a website I am currently obsessed with. For an hour, myself and two talented photographers got to bounce questions off of one of the most successful women I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

Noreen Flanagan greeted us in a warm and friendly manner, she had a look in her eyes that resembled quiet excitement. She was genuinely pleased to spend time with us, she even brought cookies. The four of us sat down with tea and coffee, and chatted about the publishing industry from both a writer’s and a photographer’s standpoint. Noreen gave us honest and whimsical answers — she’s a storyteller in her own right. She told us the blunt facts, gave us several suggestions, and even made us laugh. Sitting there, I felt like I was catching up with a co-worker or discussing future projects with a mentor. I’ve listed some of her advice below, but what I took most from coffee with Noreen was: Creativity and passion are key to landing any job. No matter how you communicate with people (media, writing, photography), FIND YOUR VOICE and be yourself. Dare to be different. Don’t be afraid.

Tips from Noreen Flanagan 

  • Ensure a concise 360 degree pitch. Show that you understand how the story will work in the book, on the iPad, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.
  • When you apply for a job that you really want, find a human to talk to. A lot of times the first round of HR is done by a computer, if you don’t fit all of the criteria no one will even see your resume.
  • The six words of the subject of your email are the most important words you will ever write. Use these to get your potential editor’s attention and ensure that you’re contacting the right editor.
  • When you go for an interview create a narrative about yourself, something your interviewer will remember, but don’t lie. Come prepared with loads of questions and practice interviews with family members or friends.
  • Practice your phone manners, it really is a lost art.
  • If you’re trying to be a freelance writer, get a full-time job. It doesn’t matter what it is, just pay the bills.
  • Learn more about SEO, Google Analytics, and videography, they’re the way of the future.
Embrace the butterflies, what’s life without them?
 – Noreen Flanagan

– Vanessa

A HUGE thank you to Noreen for taking time out of her day to let a few aspiring writers and photographers pick her brain! An even greater thank you to Grace from Ten Thousand Coffees for making it all possible. Your website is a true gift for young people with big dreams! Oh and thank you to the older gentleman who was leaving the public parking lot and gave me his parking ticket so that I didn’t have to purchase my own ❤ !