The Day I Became Normal

Photo by: @Jackbolga
New York, New York

I hate the word normal.

Because normal is relative.
Because it’s not a consistent scale to base our judgments on.

What I really mean is healed, free from poor mental health.

I went to therapy for a long time after I was raped 3 years ago. I took a break for a while and then decided to go back about a week before I got into my accident because I was starting to feel depressed again. I kept wondering what was wrong with me. Something didn’t feel “normal”, and then when I had my accident, I ended up laying in bed for a solid week even though I had no physical ailment aside from the light burn on my left arm.  I felt like my reaction wasn’t normal.

But an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is in fact, natural and normal. 

What is the “proper” reaction to feeling like your stuck in a place you don’t belong, living out your life for other people, and then witnessing your car get totaled by a drunk driver from the inside? 

Answer: There is none.
Becuase everyone processes situations differently in their brain based on their life experiences and about 10000 other things.

Anyway, fast forward a few months and about 4 therapy sesssions. I’m feeling better, & probably a little too excited to get this last semester of college over with and freakin graduate already.

I went to therapy last week, told her about my winter break and then started to tell her about my therapeutic goals for the semester when she interrupted me – “Before you tell me your goals, can I give you some feedback?”
“Yes of course!” I said enthusiastically. (I love feedback.)
“Well from what I see, you don’t have much to work on here. There’s no sign of mental health issues at all.”
“What?” Tears welled up in my eyes immediately.
“You don’t need to come to therapy anymore Annabelle. I even have a hard time writing my notes sometimes.”
“Are you serious?”
 ” Yeah! You have struggles, just like anyone else, but you are more than capable of handling them! I see no reason to keep you here!”

I laugh-cried.
She was surprised to see me cry & I told her it was because I was relieved, and felt so grateful that she told me. I didn’t realize how much weight I had been carrying from feeling “abnormal”. It was like someone finally checked under my bed and in the closet and found no evidence of any kind of monster lurking in the shadows. 

But I was also kind of scared.
Now, I don’t have something to blame my feelings on. I can’t use my ‘depression’ as a crutch or an excuse for the negativity I feel anymore. I can’t blame the monsters in my closet for my temper tantrums or making my room a mess. 
This is real life now, and real life is full of unpleasant feelings, and I am responsible for taking care of myself and cleaning my room.  

But with the fear came freedom too; and validation, and reassurance that not everyone feels things the same way, and that what I need to do to take care of myself and deal with those feelings, is okay, even if it looks different from everyone else. 

My struggle through healing from being raped and feeling unworthy has taught me how to take care of myself and not to judge those strange “abnormal” feelings when they arise. 
Suffering is just a part of life, even a happy and healthy one. This is it.

I’m not a victim of rape.
I’m not a lost girl.
I’m not unworthy.
I’m not fighting.
I’m not suffering.
I am alive.
I am living.
I am growing.
I am a survivor but,
I am also more than that.
I am 100% me.

Nothing is looming in the dark to pull me back under. 
There are no monsters in my closet, and that’s a pretty big deal.

Later I asked her about her opinion on the purpose of suffering.
She said “I think it’s growth. Pain always leaves an opportunity for growth – without it, we would never change. We only change when something is uncomfortable or hurts.”

Health is not the absence of disease or suffering, it’s more. It’s taking a changing circumstance and turning it into an opportunity for growth.

I found this online, and I think it’s pretty great. It’s what this guy, Dr. Ratson believes is a true meaning/definition/path to health.

“A person must recognize the inherent PURPOSE of his or her own life. The constant awareness of why you are here and whether you are working towards that purpose can help you to wade through the conflicting and confusing mass of expert advice. This is important because there is a lot of confusing and conflicting expert advice available and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

When you feel unconditional LOVE for yourself and others, you cannot help hut feel that the entire universe supports you. There won’t be room for a cynical or hostile view of the world or its people. Many negative emotions arise from a cynical, paranoid and hostile view of the world. Believe it or not, but our view of the world affects our health. 


When you take total RESPONSIBILITY for your own well-being, you can trust and rely on your innate biological, psychological and spiritual healing power. Also, when you assume total responsibility, you can never abuse your personal power.

With inner FREEDOM, you can no longer be a slave to external pressures or other handicapping conditions. Inner freedom gives you hope for the possible and faith in the probable. You are then able to experience genuine joy. When you characteristically experience genuine joy, something interesting happens. Others cease to irritate you or give you any more grief, even though their behavior might not have significantly changed.”

– Dr. Ratson

How to Love a Creative

 

Photo by  @AlfieFriday
New York, New York

I’ve ugly cried about 6 times over the past 3 months because I’m scared shitless about what I will do in May.
Cause I graduate
And I have no idea what I’m doing
And I’m absolutely terrified.
I’ve also been reading a handful of self-help books in an effort to keep my moral up.
I noticed that most of the books I’ve read talk about “quitting your sucky job and going after your dreams”
Okay…. Well what of about the soon –to-be college grad gushing with passion and creativity with absolutely no direction?
What about the girl who knows she can make anything happen, but can’t decide on what she wants?
Sometimes I think maybe I’m the one that will have to write the book. Maybe I will.  But I gotta feel it first.
Anyway the point of me writing about this is that I’ve cried so many times and been absolutely overwhelmed with stress and it pisses my mom off. “You have absolutely no reason to stress Annabelle, I don’t know any other kid like you.”
Well it’s stressful when the people I want to support me most, are the ones crushing my dreams before they ever get to see the light of day.
When they ask what my plan is I say “I dunno, something cool.” And then immediately try to find something else to say to impress them or to say something in a language they will accept and understand. “I’m building a company that focuses on marketing..” boooorrriing- but “sounds better” than “I’m creating a movement by bringing together like-minded people to change the world”. That gets me smirks and scoffs. 
My mom says it comes from a place of caution and fear for them. And love. Mainly love.  The people around me don’t want me to fail – and the things I want to do require great risk.
I’m at the point where I don’t want to tell anyone about any of my ideas or dreams. I don’t like people telling me I can’t, or making me feel like I’m stupid for trying.
If you love me, support me. Don’t give me advice. The best way to love a creative is to encourage them – even if you don’t understand them.
Believe me – we already know how weird we are. We already know the risks. We’ve already thought about the 400 ways it could fail or destroy our lives, or maybe even cause the death of planet earth.
Your job as our loved one is to make sure we know that you believe in us. That you give us the tools to succeed, helps us stay focused on our mission and help us stay grounded in the reason we started this journey in the first place.
Be honest but don’t try to scare us because it will end up either in a furious effort on our part to prove you wrong – or it will throw us into a downward spiral of depression, doubt, and anxiety. That’s a lot of negative energy to deal with.
Remember you are doing more than just supporting a weird project – you are helping a spirit live and grow and connect with the world. You are helping a light emerge and a flower to bloom. Don’t step on it.
“I trust you”
“I believe you”
“I believe in you”
“Keep going”
And
“You’ve got this”

Are the best ways to love (& support) a creative.

Win Win or Lose Lose

Photo by @pumpkinspicnyc

Let’s begin this post by saying today was rough and I feel like a bag-o-shit.
Funny because literally 2 days ago I was feeling unstoppable.
How the heck does that happen? idk.

I started ranting about it on my IG during my rainy walk home from the subway station, but I’ve never been good at just talking my thoughts out – I’ve always been a writer, so I decided to delete the videos and just write about it instead…

So I’m competitive.
Especially with myself.
And I don’t think that is a bad thing. It keeps you aware of the situation and striving for more.

However, when you add insecurity into the mix, it’s not so good. This can create pettiness, aggressiveness, judgment, gossip, and a whole lot of negative feelings. The biggest one for me is that it causes comparison. I start comparing myself to everyone else that is similar to me. Becuase I feel like I work very hard to stay true to me and do work that is different, so if someone looks similar to me, or does things similarly to me suddenly I feel disposable.

Suddenly I’m sitting there telling myself that I don’t matter and that what I’m doing is stupid.

Which is exactly what happened today at this photography meet-up I went to. (More on this later because I definitely have some critiques on the whole idea of meet-ups)

ANYWAY – one thing I realized when I start doing the whole “omg she’s prettier than me & so much more qualified” thing – it makes me feel like a fraud. Suddenly I feel like everyone can see right through me – like I’m some sort of cheater or liar – some lowlife scum being a poser cause I’m not good enough to do it myself.

YA GUYS ITS BAD.

And I have run into a lot of creatives and entrepreneurs that have felt the same way. My theory is that it is because we are self-made; and because we are self-made, there is no consistent way to measure qualification. There’s no standardized test or degree that qualifies you to be a creative person or live the lifestyle you want. You get to be the judge of that, and that’s a very difficult weight to hold. It freaks a lot of us out.

I think that’s why we love social media – we love the feedback we get. It’s not attention we are looking for – it’s validation, because we are so much different from the norm. It’s to make sure we are on the right track, and to watch reactions of people consuming the work that we share. It’s support to know that we are crazy for follow our hearts and our dreams.

I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t speak for all creatives, but I know for a fact that this is true at least sometimes for some of us. And then without any kind of support or validation, the cycle starts all over again and it sucks.

I know I shouldn’t have to look anywhere but maybe God for support & validation, but as a human and someone who like to share, it would be nice to know that other people see & respect me for me and my uniqueness, and to remind me that my uniqueness isn’t wrong.

Transtition Thoughts

Still Image captured from @ShangChueng moving portratit
Original is on my profile!

The new year is rollin out and 2016 is rollin out and all of my thoughts are rollin all over the place.

I got a flutter of magical affirmation of God’s presence in my life yesterday. Just enough to make me look at this incoming year, and the past one, through a whole different lens.

As some of you may know, either through my IG posts, or blog posts, or just listening to me cry in person, I’ve had a lot of pain this year, a lot of hard lessons learned, a lot of stress and anxiety about the future. And as a result of this pain, SOOO much more goodness has entered my life.

Yesterday I realized that it is so much less about having everything figured out, and so much more about trusting blindly. Faith.

This year challenged my faith in myself, my dreams and my work, but God has always pulled through.
This is not to say I won’t face similar challenges again – I just think God left me on a really good note.

Let’s review the past year:

1. I was afraid to study abroad because I didn’t want to be set back in my dancing and then spent 2 months in Spain, built really close friendships and improved my Spanish, and learned the importance of rest AND grew as a dancer in ways I’d never be able to do at home.
2. My car was totaled by a drunk driver a which triggered my depression and put me in bed for a week, a month behind on school and emptied the bank and then was blessed with a nearly brand new car, was reminded of the importance of family, and re-learned the importance of rest.
3. I became an ambassador for Free To Run
4. I published a book
5. I felt directionless in pursuit of my passions so I started building my own business and found a mentor for grant writing.
6. I stressed ridiculous amounts over the video I released today but now I can say that I produced, directed, danced in, and edited my first dance video, started learning Premiere pro, about teambuilding, editing and was reminded of how much my dad rocks.
7. I suffered a pretty big blow after the dance community in Austin started tearing in half I felt like I had lost a family but in their absence, I developed a full blown passion for artistry and respect for my relationship with creativity and then realized they never left me in the first place. <3
8. I started 7 books (at least) and finished 1 of them 🙂
9. I went to LA by myself 2x with absolutely zero plans and made really special friendships.
10. I went to NYC 3 times and met up with the founder of Conscious mag. <3
11. I pushed the bar to a whole new level in my modeling work, TWO times in the past year.
12. I felt like my passions were pointless and then began to turn my hobbies into profit.
13. I became a mentor for multiple young girls and a young boy.
14. I created a team and then let it fall apart and learned a lot in the process.
15. I felt self-conscious and hurt when people didn’t understand or didn’t like things I shared or made, but then I began to learn how to love my work for me, and let go of other people’s opinions (Still learning that one)
16. I cried over and over again, consumed with anxiety for the future and then remembered how very very very much I have to be grateful for.
17. I entertained a dysfunctional & toxic relationship, felt totally stuck in it, and then by the grace of God, found my balance again and moved on. Completely.

A lot of the things on this list came with a pretty intense amount of suffering, but in retrospect, I see how much this pain has taught me, and how each suffering or loss I had made way for something so much bigger and brighter and wonderful.

I really do believe that a lot of things will blow up this year, in a good way. I mean after all, I am graduating in May of 2017, and I believe this past year has been really preparing me to take on a lot of greatness next year.

So if you’re someone who believes 2016 was total shit, don’t worry. It was preparation for something beautiful to come. and if you haven’t figured it out yet, keep your heart and eyes open, because it will. It always does.

Take No L’s

Photo By: Shane Spangler

I’m Baaaaaaack!

Mostly.
Partly.
Kind of?

If you didn’t notice I was gone, let me fill you in.

I disappeared last weekend.
Vanished, under the blankets on my bed.
Last Thursday I took a pretty big L.

The Trigger:
My two beautiful, wonderful, super fun friends from L.A. drove their big R.V. into Austin last week. You might know them as Alex and Dalton from ARK Project (@arkprojectnow). Well, we had a lot of fun roaming around the city until their RV got broken into, so we decided we’d go out with some of my other friends for a night on 6th street to get their minds off of it. We had a good time bar hopping and dancing and drinking ( I was D.D.) until we encountered Patricia.

I was driving us to get a slice of pizza before the long drive home and CRASH.
My car jolted to a halt. I opened my eyes to a blur and heard a ringing in my ears. I smelled smoke and shouted, “everyone get out of the car!”

We were hit by a drunk driver.
Head on.

There was a lot of shouting. I looked over to see Patricia, our new drunk friend, fumbling with the keys trying to put her truck into reverse to drive away. Hit and run? Not if I could help it. I started to scream when I noticed three men had flung her driver door open and wrestled with her to keep her from driving off. I could see she was very overwhelmed so I felt that 3 men yelling and grabbing was a bit excessive. I walked over to them and shooed them all away. I turned to Patricia and spoke softly. I asked if she was okay and if she had anyone to call. I glanced down and saw blood smeared on her legs. Once she got a hold of the steering wheel for balance, she turned to me with blood gushing from her mouth and said “I’m not drunk”. That’s when the officer walked up and he handled it.

I was marching back and forth between my friends and the ambulance and my car in 6 inch heels. I stood strong and competent and helpful until I watched 4 men roll my poor car onto a tow truck. Then I just stared. My friend came over to me and put his arm around me. I thought about the road trips I had taken in my car, and the long talks I had with people in that car, the dents I put in my car (and in other peoples cars with my car) and the kisses I gave and received in my car. My car was gifted to me from my step mom after I got my license my Junior year of High School. It grew up with me. It was my freedom.

My favorite part of the whole night was actually our Uber (Not actually uber it’s an app called Ride Austin because Uber & Lift don’t exist here) driver who told us how excited he was that we got into a car accident and were going to the hospital at 3 am to pick up one of my friends because his night had been really boring.

I was not taking anyone’s shit so I turned to him and said
“So glad our misfortune is entertaining to you. That’s really fucked up”
He proceeded to change the subject by trying to put down the drunk driver, Patricia
“She was probably just one of those stupid sorority girls, you know.”
Which I again turned to him, looked him dead in the eye and said
“I’m in a sorority.”
“oh.”
Then a voice from the back seat.
“You are just digging yourself into a deeper hole dude.”

Then silence for the following 40 min home.

I didn’t cry that night. I didn’t cry the following days either. My L.A. friends made it easy to laugh…

The weekend was spent getting me a rental car, getting checked out by the urgent care doctor, picking up prescriptions, phones calls to my step brother who is a lawyer and my insurance company and then sleeping.

The Aftermath:
Monday Morning
Monday morning, my friends left. I felt fine until suddenly I wasn’t. I tried gathering myself together for class and had a complete breakdown and called my mom. She told me to call my therapist. And I told them both I got shaky holding my prescription medications from the doctor and asked my roommate to hide them from me. Just in case.

I cried hard. Really hard.
Tipping point.
I felt like I was suffocating.
I went to the park and posted one snap chat and one Instagram story saying I was going to take a week off to heal, then I deleted all of my social media apps.
Then messaged the people I was working with on side projects to let them I know I was taking time to heal and I wouldn’t be available for a little while.
I felt better.
I went home and slept.

Tuesday – Thursday
I slept for 3 days. Literally. Slept.
The following day I felt physically weak and emotionally numb. Tired and still couldn’t do much. I laid in bed and watched T.V. shows all day. I tried to get out once, but talking to people drained me.

Friday
I decided I was bored of feeling sorry for myself and done with thinking about my wrecked car. I got dressed up, put on make-up and went to a lecture.
Then I went to my therapy appointment. I sat down and stared a the wall on the other side of the room as the tears streamed down my face.
Now this didn’t just happen all of a sudden, this was coming. Like the way the sky gets dark before it starts to rain. People don’t just break out of nowhere.
“I’m so scared of this” I said. “I noticed this started last month, when I had a really good day and was smiling in the car and I realized that I haven’t actually been happy in a while” More tears. I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I was finally happy one day and my smile vanished pretty fast after that realization.

This didn’t feel like me. I felt trapped. I felt like I was being invaded. Like my mind and my body and my life was being invaded by a thick fog. I couldn’t think straight. I thought in circles. Depressing circles. But I knew that some thoughts I was having wasn’t me, it was the intruder. And noticing that made me feel better. I went home and watched more T.V. so I would stop thinking.

I went to the store later that night and bought ice cream, oreos, chocolate chip cookies, and bananas.
I ate half of what I bought that night.

Saturday
I don’t remember much except that I decided to go out that night.
It was homecoming weekend and a lot of old sorority sisters and friends were back in town.
I saw a bunch of people.
Being around people and hugging old friends filled me up a little bit. I felt a little bit stronger.
The people I saw & spent time talking to reminded me that I have many more people to call than I realized. They also reminded me of the impact I can have. And how proud they were of me.
I felt valued.

Sunday
My friend took me to church. The pastor’s wife got up on stage and told people that she wanted to take a moment to pray for the people who were hurting. This isn’t a normal part of the service. And I knew God did it for me.
“Come up to the front of the room to receive your blessing”
HA, HELL NO.
Almost the entire congregation went up there, which I thought was beautiful, but I stayed in my seat and bowed my head to pray Forgive Lord, but there’s no way in hell I’m going up there. But I still want your blessing. I need your help to beat this invader. 
“No pressure. God says no pressure. God is going to do something spectacular today for each of you.” The pastor’s wife said into the microphone.
Okay. I opened my eyes wide….

After church, I went to my other friend’s apartment for breakfast and Game of Thrones.
Suddenly it started to pour. And a smile dashed across my face.
I love rain.
I love the smell it leaves behind.
I love the chill of it.
But most of all, I love the cleansing feeling it gives me.
A lot of times when I am sad it rains. Which is kind of a big deal because it doesn’t rain all that much here.
I re-downloaded Instagram and Facebook

On my way home from my friend’s house I saw a rainbow. Not just part of a rainbow, but the whole darn thing. It was magical. And I couldn’t help but think of church this morning, and of God. And my sadness lifted, and the fog thinned out.
I bumped the song “Yung God” by Russ and “Bounce Back” by Big Sean (Whose cover art for the single inspired the title of this blog post) If you haven’t heard them, look them up.

Conclusion:
Someone responded to my “see ya later” post on my Instagram and said “Oh yeah? What’s a week going to do?” Well sir, let me tell you.

I healed a little bit. I took time for myself to rest and to hurt and to go back to God.

I have no idea when I’ll get hit with the fog again, but I can say that I’m ready to move forward and I ain’t takin no L’s.

I’m too strong to be defeated.

Still though, the idea of jumping straight back into everything I was doing before makes me a little bit light headed, but this week, I will go to class, and that’s a damn good start for me.