Where In The World Is Abbi?

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Nearly a month ago, I left my job to travel my way around Europe. I left Birmingham, my home for the past three years, and Groot, my puppy (who is safe and sound in Tennessee, don’t worry). This change was marked by excitement, yes, but also an insurmountable fear. What 25-year-old quits her job to run around the globe, depleting her savings and leaving behind those work benefits whose importance her (and many) parents have instilled in their children since their college years?

This change has been different than I expected it to be. Although I could imagine how it feels to quit your job and pursue a passion (for me, traveling), I have come up against a few emotions that I honestly didn’t expect to have – and it’s been, even in the 20 days I’ve been gone – a character-revealing experience.

I used to say that this trip would be character-changing; this trip would – as I looked to the future – forever change how I saw the world and its people. My dad quickly corrected me, saying that the parts of our character that emerge during new experiences have been there all along – i.e., character-revealing. And, how that’s been true in my life.

A month ago, I thought I’d be desperate to be working again, antsy to be doing something or making sure my bank account wasn’t dipping too drastically or writing everyday to pitch stories. When you’re seeing the Alps in Switzerland, crying over the art in the Louvre, and drinking wine in Spain, friends – the last thing on your mind is the amount of work you should or could be doing. Part of me is anxious that I’m losing those skills that I learned at Southern Living that would make me employable in the coming months, but the part of me that’s so incredibly thrilled to be walking all over these beautiful cities is, without fail, shushing that small, worried voice.

My largest lesson in self so far has, without a doubt, been in the importance of language. I speak English fluently and enough French to get by. We are currently in Munich, Germany, where I’m spoken to in German. A few days ago we (my brother and I) were in Spain, our complexions shocking many native Catalonians when we replied to their slew of quick Spanish words with a “We’re so sorry; we don’t speak Spanish.” Although we were able to get around fairly well in France, I’ve come to the realization that feeling understood, and making sure others feel understood, is fundamentally important to me. A language barrier is frustrating, not just for the simplistic reason of not knowing what someone is saying – it’s frustrating to me that I can’t completely understand the tone, the quirks, and the between-the-lines context of how others are communicating. It feels incredibly rude to say, “I’m so sorry. I don’t speak your language, so could you speak mine?” This is what I’ve learned about myself – I value expression, communication, and the ability to leave someone thoroughly understanding your intentions above all else. For this reason, I may place greater emphasis on hitting the goal of becoming quadralingual by the time I hit 30. Simply, I want to understand how everyone feels.

I’m waiting for the loneliness to kick in. I started my adventure with both my dad and my brother (Ben), my dad leaving when Ben and I took off for Paris and Ben leaving in a few days (after spending a month with me exploring). For my remaining two months, I’ll be, for all intents and purposes, traveling alone. I’ll be meeting some friends along the way, and in some cities, it’ll just be me (I’m coming for you, Amsterdam!). But I’m waiting for the homesickness. Another lesson I’ve learned about myself, though, is that it hasn’t hit me yet. I like exploring and spending every day mapping out how best to see a whole city, but I also like having a space to come home to. For the sake of this trip, it’s my aunt and uncle’s home in Munich (my current space of safety). I haven’t been desperate to be back in the United States, though, except a day or two when I’d really, really like to pet my dog again. Otherwise, I’m doing okay. And, I’m really excited about the places to come.

So, as these things click inside me, I’ll try to share them. I think it’s important to show the other side of all those pretty Instagram photos – the not-so-glamorous, sometimes-uncomfortable parts of traveling abroad and traveling alone. It’s not me catching cabs in Paris; it’s grueling heat and about 50 baguettes (wait, that’s not bad!) and sometimes exhaustion settling in as I take a week to recuperate. I make dinner for my family; I bike to the lake; I sit at the library; I write. I’ll be posting a few city guides along the way too, as I come across places that are just too cool not to share, inspired by many others who have come before me (and, heavily influenced by my new husband, Rick Steves).

To following those urges in your heart that just can’t be put off any longer,

Abbi

Grain-Free “Granola”

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Peeved at myself that it’s taken three rounds of Whole30 for me to play around with granola recipes, but y’all have to try this sweetener-free, gluten-free “granola.” It’s absolutely delicious (and, pairs well with bananas and sunflower seed butter). Dates make it slightly sweet and you can swap in whatever kind of nuts you have laying around; this recipe is based on the ingredients I happened to have in the pantry at the time.

1/2 cup raw cashew pieces
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3 Tbsp. chia seeds
3 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
5-6 pitted dates
Pinch of salt

Throw all ingredients into a food processor (my favorite kitchen gadget!) and pulse until mixture is your desired consistency. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 300˚F for about 20 minutes until granola is golden and fragrant. Let cool before serving.

Whole30 Apple Muffins

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Let me caveat this, first of all, in saying that Whole30 doesn’t want you baking anything. So, #notsponsored. But, these muffins are incredibly moist and protein-packed, so they make an easy breakfast when smeared with some sunflower butter and a great afternoon pick-me-up. If you aren’t into a super-moist muffin (then who are you, am I right?!), you can cut down the oil a little bit – the banana keeps the texture pretty soft. Here’s the recipe:

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Makes about 24 small muffins

2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 c. arrowroot powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. grapeseed (or other Whole30-friendly) oil
1 large egg
2 medium apples, cut into small chunks
4 dates, pitted
1 banana

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray two muffin pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine first 5 ingredients and whisk until combined. In a food processor, combine oil, egg, dates, and banana. Pulse until dates have been incorporated completely. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, and then add chopped apples. Use a spatula to fold all ingredients together. Spoon into muffin tins, filling them about halfway (I use one large spoonful). Bake for about 20 minutes, or until muffins start to brown on top and are holding together. Cool on a wire rack.

Vegan Peanut Butter Pie

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Having to cook within Whole30 guidelines last month was an ultra-challenge for me – especially when it came to making things without sugar. When we finally finished the 30 days, I was so excited to get a little peanut butter back in my life.

And, of course, dessert. Yes! Dessert! I made this pie for a friend’s birthday, and it turned out surprisingly well. If you’re looking for a DOPE vegan pie, you should definitely try this guy out. CAVEAT: The peanut butter filling doesn’t look that nice with the addition of avocado, but it tastes heavenly.

FOR CRUST:
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup dates
1 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt

Process in a food processor. If you need more moisture, add in tablespoon or two of your preferred nut butter. Pat crust into a tart or pie pan and chill to harden.

FOR PEANUT BUTTER LAYER:
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water for about 2 hours
1 avocado
1 cup dates
1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 cup coconut cream

You may need to play around with adding a little more here and there, because I wasn’t exact with measurements the first go-round (whoops!). Process all ingredients in a food processor. If you need a silkier texture, add a little more almond milk. To make it sweeter, throw in a few more dates. Add peanut butter layer on top of crust, and let chill while you make cream layer.

FOR CREAM LAYER:
1 can coconut cream (just solids)
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1-2 Tbsp. agave (or honey)

Pulse ingredients in food processor until smooth. Spread on top of peanut butter layer.

FOR CHOCOLATE DRIZZLE:
This isn’t super necessary, but it’s fun and delicious and reminds me of “magic shell” on the pie.
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 Tbsp. agave (or honey)
1-2 Tbsp. cocoa

Whisk ingredients together, and drizzle on top of cream layer.

Throw the pie (gently) into the freezer for 30 minutes, and then you’re ready to slice! It’s delicious, honestly. If you’re hoping for a Whole30 version of the pie, swap the agave or honey for dates and the peanut butter for almond butter. Omit chocolate drizzle, or, play around with pulsing in the food processor with dates.

How To Survive Whole30 When You Hate Leftovers & Meal-Prepping Is Your Nightmare

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Well, that title just about says it all.

When I agreed to start Whole30 in January, I didn’t quite think through the logistics of the 30 days. Turns out, it’s not a “wing-it-as-you-go” type of diet. I can’t stand having the same food multiple days in a row, and I have never been a 5-containers-with-grilled-chicken-and-broccoli kinda gal. So, I wanted to create my own little guide to Whole30 that includes some of the recipes, tips, and treats I’ve picked up that you should definitely know about.

You’ll probably need a food processor.

I have never in my life used a food processor as much as I have the past thirty days. I used it to crush nuts + dates, to make mayonnaise, to make ketchup, to make ranch… you name it. Some of these things you could maybe use a blender for, but having a food processor around makes things MUCH easier.

Make some buffalo chicken meatballs.

I made this Buffalo Chicken Meatballs recipe three times, and it’s awesome. Frank’s Red Hot (sauce) is Whole30 approved, and you’ll find an excuse to use it on everything to add some flavor. I don’t even really like hot sauce. You’ll also want to make a batch of Whole30 ranch to dip them in (recipe below). Note: I swapped out the ground chicken in this recipe for ground turkey, and it was great.

Embrace coconut cream.

Okay, okay. So cocoa + dates are banned. This is a rule I think is maybe a little silly…but, if you choose to stick to it, this easy recipe (compliments of Jade Maghoney!) will be a great after-dinner treat that will keep you sane. In fact, I ate it for dinner tonight. Coconut Cream (not to be confused with cream of coconut that you find in the cocktail aisle that definitely has sugar in it) is usually found in the “foreign foods” section of the grocery store and has a whipped cream-like texture. And, it’s not just good for sneaking a little non-dessert into your life. It doesn’t have a super strong flavor, so I actually threw a dollop in with some potatoes and whipped them into creamy mashed potatoes. So good!

Coconut Cream “Tart”

Throw a handful (sorry y’all, I don’t quite measure) of cashews, a handful of almonds, 7 or 8 dates, and a little bit of water into a food processor and blend until it’s pretty fine. I also added some sunflower butter (you could use almond) to hold it together if needed. Press into a glass dish.

Spread coconut cream on top of base, and top with fresh fruit (I used strawberries). Refrigerate until firm – enjoy!

Making your own mayo will make life so much easier.

Turns out, mayonnaise is incredibly easy to make (and, it tastes just as good as the store-bought stuff). The ingredient that isn’t Whole30 approved in mayonnaise, for the most part, is soybean oil (since legumes are ix-nayed). I started with this recipe, and then adapted a little to fit, honestly, whatever ingredients I had remembered to buy at the time. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 egg
Dijon mustard (or mustard powder)
Half a lemon
Salt
About 1 1/4 cups of sunflower, avocado, or extra-light oil

So, a couple tricks here.
1 – Make sure to leave your egg on the counter so that it comes to room-temperature before you try to whip it into mayo. I don’t know the science behind this, but it was key to most of the mayo recipes I tried.
2 – No matter how much you like extra virgin olive oil (and, I do!) it DOES NOT taste good as a base for mayo. Your mayo will be bitter and you’ll have to throw it all in the trash. I used extra-light-tasting olive oil and sunflower oil, and both turned out great.
3 – To your food processor, add the egg, Dijon, salt, and about 1/4 cup of oil. Then, blend until it starts to look creamy. Using the removable part of your food processor (or, if you have a little one like me, the divot where you can pour things), slowly add the remaining oil while the food processor is still running. It should take 2 or 3 minutes for you to add it all. Squeeze in your lemon, and blend until it’s at the consistency you’d like.

I added this mayonnaise to my ranch (getting there, I know), egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, and my chicken meatballs, which made for easy lunches that didn’t feel like leftovers. It’s really nice to just have some on hand.

And, why deprive yourself of ranch?

Once you’ve got mayonnaise down, you have to try this ranch. Ranch on Whole30? What? Yes, friends. Eat ranch. I adapted my version from this recipe. I used 1 tsp. of each of these spices, and combined them in a Ziploc bag to have on-hand: salt, parsley, dill, chives, onion powder, dehydrated onion flakes, garlic powder, and pepper.

Mix a tablespoon of the dry ranch mix with 1 cup of your mayonnaise, 1/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk, and a squeeze of lemon (about 1 tablespoon).

Turns out that other condiments are also kinda easy to make.

Since you can now have white potatoes on Whole30 (cheers!) you should also have some ketchup to dip them taters in. Here’s the combo – you’ll have to just play around with the ratios because, unfortunately as I mentioned previously, I’m terrible at measuring:

Tomato paste
8-9 pitted dates
Water
Apple cider vinegar
Fresh lemon juice
Salt
Garlic powder
Onion powder

You can also make a killer tomato sauce that works with spaghetti squash, zucchini, ground turkey, eggplant… go for it. You only need a few ingredients, and a handful of spices from the cupboard:

Olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 large can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes
Basil, oregano, thyme
Salt

Start by sautéing the garlic in the oil, and then adding the rest of the ingredients into a pot. Crush the tomatoes with a fork or potato masher. Cook the sauce on low until combined.

Speaking of spaghetti squash…

Take it up. It’s not hard at all – cut a spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on 350˚ for about 30-40 minutes, face up, until you can shred all the flesh (ew, Abigail, wording!) with a fork. I cook it on Sunday, and then keep it in the fridge as an easy dinner if I don’t have time to cook. Mix with a little of that homemade pasta sauce and some ground turkey, and you’ve got spaghetti [squash] with meat sauce.

Cook a bunch on Saturday and Sunday.

Okay, so here’s where you can combat the meal prep thing that I hate. The idea of having matching containers of meat and vegetables to be heated day after day gives me heartburn, genuinely. The best way to combat this while also not finding yourself eating almonds for dinner during the week is to make a list of foods you’d like to eat, and then making a handful of dishes to keep in the fridge. Not technically leftovers because you haven’t eaten them yet – and not the same thing over and over. Last week, this is what I prepped on Sunday:

Shakshuka (sans feta, I know – but still SO comforting)
Egg salad
Chicken Salad
Spaghetti Squash
Taco Soup
Chicken Florentine Soup
Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
Roasted veggies
Roasted sweet potatoes
Guacamole

Not bad for options, eh?

You can eat bacon!

Really! The Whole30 cookbook says to “read the labels” when it comes to bacon, and that you’ll probably need to order some specialty bacon online or go to your local butcher for fresh bacon to find something that qualifies, but I’ve got the secret for you – most “low-sodium” bacons are sugar-free! So, you likely can have the grocery store bacon you’re passing by anyway. The Publix Hickory Smoked Low-Sodium bacon is approved, as is the Smithfield Low-Sodium Bacon. Pick it up on BOGO! Eat bacon! This morning, I had eggs, bacon, hash browns, and a pear for breakfast. Whole30 doesn’t have to be gross.

Roast some nuts.

I’ve roasted nuts every weekend now. The great thing about Whole30 is that you don’t have to be hungry, because you’re not counting calories. So, nuts are a great snack if you need a little afternoon fuel. If you’re not into the plain ol’ nut thing, like I’m not, then I want to encourage you to think outside salted almonds. This is one of my favorite combinations:

Mix pecans with a little olive oil, hot sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and onion flakes. Bake for about 12 minutes on 350˚, until your pecans are fragrant. This tastes like Chex Mix seasoning! So good!

I’ve also tried sunflower oil + cinnamon, sunflower oil + cinnamon, and olive oil + rosemary. Use whatever spices you have, and dress up those roasted nuts.

Just do it!

Honestly – the most common question people have asked me about Whole30 is whether or not it’s hard. It isn’t easy, I will say, and the first few days, I had a constant sugar-withdrawal headache. But, come day 8 or 9, my body felt great. Now, on Day 28, I’m planning on carrying over a lot of these Whole30 tricks into my lifestyle. You DO have time to cook. You CAN make dinners work in 30 minutes without prepackaged foods. And, your body WILL feel so much better when you fill it with whole foods. Promise! Maybe I won’t be making my own ketchup, but I’ll definitely be thinking twice when it comes to mimosas (or, shoveling donuts) on the weekend. It’s totally worth it.

You can do it!

Bake with Abbi

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Hi friends!

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, but you can check out all the fun videos, articles, and recipes I’ve been trying out on The Daily South and SouthernLiving.com.

In my not-so-spare time, I’ve decided to get a little deeper into one of my favorite passions –baking. If you’ve ever spent a weekend with me, you know that I like to go overboard in the kitchen. Case in point: last weekend, I made homemade buttermilk biscuits, lemon bars, two loaves of Citrus Pull-Apart Bread, a loaf of banana bread, and muffins all in one day. So, I won’t bake during the week, but I’ll get you a mean chess pie on the weekend. And, I need to share, because I can’t eat four loaves of bread in one day.

I love working with different recipes to see how the dough is made, how kneading makes a huge difference, and how yeast rises. My recent excitement over baking can 70% be attributed to my binge-watching of the last three seasons of Great British Baking Show. (Seriously, if you haven’t seen in – please go watch.)

All this to say – I want to get further into baking and really celebrate how cool it is that we can apply heat to ingredients and have them puff up into golden, fluffy shapes. So, I’d love for you to join me. I’ve created a new @bakewithabbi Instagram account, and I’m going to try to get better about writing some reviews on my blog on the recipes I’m trying.

And, if you’ve got a hankering for some baked goods (within a reasonable distance, ha!) – just shoot me a message and I’ll see if my next baking experiment can end up in your hands. 🙂

Happy spring!

Abbi

Call Us What We Are

Call us what we are: Generation AA. A generation of alcoholics and workaholics. A generation that cares more about saving the earth that about the bickering of politics. We buff our personal brands with polish from the encouragement of others, and our lives are made up of fifteen side hustles that put us in jobs for less than five years. You don’t understand us. We know you don’t. We know that the reaction to not understanding us is to fear us, to undermine us, and to call us entitled. You don’t know the value of hard work, you’d say, and I’d look at you, straight in the eyes, shaking your hand with the same hand that held an icy latte because no one taught me the correct politics of the office – and tell you that my mind, in itself, is a creation of my own hard work. It’s a smooth, yet rocky, canyon of echoes and dreams–dreams that have been cultivated by experience and adventure.

I value time more than I value things. You may think I’m a millennial, but I was born twenty years before you called us whiny and entitled. So, you making a generalization about a group of people who are fighting, crying, breathing, hoping for a world with change makes you the small one. We are a beacon of light. Every time we open our glossed lips or hit publish, we’re changing the day. We dress carelessly. Our bra straps show and our jeans are too tight, and we’re told that men should make more because they’re the head of our family. Our black lips whisper in dark alleyways at night plotting to kill our successors and we are confident in the ideal that love will always conquer hate.

We are united and we are open. We will open our gates and our doors to people that are not like us because we recognize that freedom with boundaries is not freedom at all. We are the generation that will overcome your shortfalls and clean up your economy and rally to protect the earth. We are strong and we are many.

Dating With Anxiety: Josh’s Story

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I’ve been wanting to write a post like this for awhile now, especially after seeing the many “How To Date Someone With Anxiety” blog posts that have been floating around the Internet. These other posts are usually being written by someone who has anxiety, essentially helping their partner understand what they’re going through and how to best encourage them.

Personally, I’m in the opposite boat. I’ve been dating my sweet boyfriend for about 2 1/2 years now, and he’s struggled with anxiety for much longer than that. This has been a journey for me because I’m always trying to figure out how best to be there (or, not be there) when he’s having an anxiety attack or going through a rough patch. I decided to interview him and find out exactly what he’d want me to know. So, this is Josh’s story. We hope that you can take a piece of this experience and use it to inspire someone (maybe your partner, as in my case) to be a better friend to those dealing with this darkness.

Give us some background. How long have you been dealing with anxiety?

My anxiety is something that manifested in me around my sophomore year of high school. So, I’ve dealt with it for close to eleven years. It’s something that’s hereditary for me. At the time, at that age, not really understanding what it was, I didn’t identify that other people in my family also struggled with it. Now, it’s pretty evident. My father and my brother have both struggled with anxiety, and hearing stories about my grandparents on my father’s side, I think it’s something that they struggled with as well.

It became bad for me when I was about 19 years old. I think it was just the time where I realized that life is really changing for me, and a lot of unknowns were becoming evident. It was really tough for me. I struggled with it for about four or five months on my own and not really knowing how to talk about it. My parents got me some help, but the first person I went to was not extremely helpful. She basically told me that this was life, this was how your body adjusts to growing up, and this is who you’re going to be. Fortunately, I got a second opinion.

That’s when I was put under the direction of some medicine that’s been able to help me sleep, which was the big problem, and calm me down. It helps keep, for the most part, that stuff in check. I’ve been on medication now since I was 19, so about 6 1/2 or 7 years. It’s something that flares up from time to time. You’re going to have your bad days, but the majority of mine are good. You have things that happen in your life that kind of feed into it and draw it out, but it’s something that’s easier to deal with the longer you’re dealing with it. When you go to that dark place or when you feel the effects of a full-on anxiety attack, it’s a terrifying feeling – but, when you come back from it, it makes the next time a little bit easier, because you know you can.

My anxiety has tended to be based around the unknown. For instance, situations in my life that could be or are taking place where there is no definitive way for me to affect the outcome. The feeling of being unsure and powerless feeds into it.

What’s something you’d want someone without anxiety to know?

How you are when your anxiety is high or you’re having a difficult time with it is very different from the person that you really are when you’re not struggling. For me, I become hypersensitive to things that are being said or perceptions of what people think about me. Or, minute details that my mind blows up into being a bigger deal than they are. In that mindset, when you’re struggling with those issues, you’re not thinking as clearly as you could. You don’t see the longterm impact of what you’re thinking or what you’re saying, because you just can’t seem to clear your mind or get the full picture. So, that becomes a vicious cycle, because it feeds into your anxiety even more.

From my perspective, when this happens, I’ve just wanted someone there. I don’t need them there to tell me or do anything, just be there. Early on, when I started having these issues, the person I wanted to be around was my brother, because he’d dealt with it before. He’s been down the road. There’s a lot of times when it’s nice to have someone else tell you that it’s going to be okay. But, most of the time, my brother would just be there to be there, because he knew that it was a comforting feeling knowing that you’re not struggling alone. Being there with someone when they’re feeling this way, or when they’re having an anxiety attack, is very comforting.

In terms of us being in a relationship, what would you want me to do when you’re having an anxiety attack?

Well, in the context of us dating, it would probably be what I said before. I’d just want you to be there for me. The main thing that helps me is when you put your hand over my heart, because that’s where the physical feeling of anxiety manifests for me. It’s a tightness in my chest. It’s not necessarily a pain, but it feels like you’re wearing heavy duty clothing that’s three sizes too small for you. It’s laboring to push your chest out to get a full breath of air. That’s just your body not knowing how to react to what’s going on. Then, when you start feeling like that, you start worrying, which in turn makes it worse, which makes you worry worse, which makes your anxiety worse. It’s a never-ending thing. In my mind, when you put your hand on my chest, it’s a light in the dark of you saying ‘It’s okay.’ It’s a feeling of ‘One way or another, everything is going to be alright.’ So, that’s the biggest thing relationship-wise. It’s that physical connection of being there in that moment with someone else. I’m not just seeing you, but I’m feeling that you’re near to me. That helps me.

Is there any part of dealing with a relationship that’s made harder by the fact that you have anxiety?

Yeah, it definitely does make things harder. We’ve run into this in our own relationship. And, when I say we, I mean me. [Laughs] You know, the thought of getting married or having kids are huge unknowns, and that’s something for me that really feeds into my anxiety. It’s something I’ve had to deal with. It makes you super sensitive to perceived issues in a relationship. You just want to be in the know all the time, especially if you think your partner’s upset. You want to know what it is and what’s wrong. That feeling of not knowing personally feeds into my anxiety because not knowing means I start speculating on what it could be. And then that leads to it being blown out of proportion and becoming a huge thing. It’s basically throwing a match onto a can of gasoline. It doesn’t take much to start it, but once it’s been lit, it’s very hard to put it out. You can’t quiet your mind; it’s just running repeatedly. So yes, it makes certain aspects of a relationship very difficult.

In some instances, it makes you very self-conscious, too – especially early on in the relationship. You don’t necessarily want the other person to see you like that because you don’t know how your partner is going to perceive it. You also don’t know what effect it will have moving forward in terms of how they see you after the fact. Some people might feel like it’s too much baggage to bring into their lives.

Is that something you’ve personally struggled with?

Yes, especially in terms of medication. I feel like there’s a stigma attached to taking medication. I don’t really think that there’s a strong stigma attached to having anxiety, but once you go to the level where you’re prescribed something for it, people start to say, “Oh, oh you take MEDICINE” in a judging way. They make it seem like taking medicine puts you in a different category. And, with my medicine, it’s something I’ve struggled with from a family perspective. With my mom being as religious as she is, she was very against me taking anything for my anxiety. She did not want me to do it. And, to this day, she still brings it up. She asks me, “Do you still take that medicine to help you sleep at night?” That’s the way she looks at it – like it’s only medicine to help me sleep at night.

Lately, you’ve seemed to be less anxious about the future. Is that something you feel like you’ve grown out of, or something you suppress?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to be able to accept the unknown a little bit better. There are still things that peak my anxiety when I think about them from the standpoint of the future, relationships, what could happen, and what you want to happen. But, for the most part, I feel like I’ve grown way past the point even that I was a year, or two, or three ago. I’m a little more at peace with knowing that there are going to be good things that happen and there are bad things that happen. I used to let them get to me a lot more, which then lead to more bad things happening than good. It’s a gradual thing that took time for me to come to peace with over the years.

If you were to tell your 19-year-old self about this journey that you’ve gone through, what advice would you give?

The biggest thing that I struggled with when I was really hit hard with anxiety was me feeling like I would never be me again. I’ve always been a really positive, outgoing person. Generally, I’m pretty happy. When I went through the four or five months when I was really down, it was basically the other end of the spectrum. It was really hard feeling like that, feeling like I’d never get back to where I was before. That’s why, when the first person that I saw for help told me, literally, “You’re not going to feel like you did before,” it felt like a punch in the gut. If I could tell myself anything, it would be, “Yes, this sucks. Yes, you’re going to have to go through this. But, you are going to be able to get back to where you were before. It’s going to take time, there are going to be some really shitty things that are going to happen, and you’re going to feel badly for awhile – but you can climb out of it and you will climb out of it.”

Do you feel like you’re back to where you want to be?

I definitely do, and I’d say I’ve probably felt back to myself for the last five or six years. Like I said, there are going to be times. For me, these originated around life-changing moments like graduating from college, serious health problems in my immediate family, and changes with a job. Granted, this isn’t a blueprint for everyone that struggles with anxiety. Triggers are very unique from person to person. But yes, I definitely feel like I’m to the point where I was hoping to get back to.

I don’t think it’s something that you can ever really be “cured” of. But, I think the longer that you deal with it and the more you learn to live with it, the easier it gets. I do think it’s something that I’m going to deal with for the rest of my life. On the other side, though, I think it’s going to be something that gets easier to deal with the older I get and the more life experience that I have under my belt. And, the more I talk about it, share my experiences, and hopefully help other people with it, the easier it becomes for me.

In a relationship, is there a specific quality that you’d want in a partner that would help you?

I would say, from my experiences, the biggest effect that anxiety has on me is my self-confidence. I’ve never been extremely confident in myself anyways throughout my life, so it’s something that definitely becomes worse in those dark moments. You’re feeling down, you’re not feeling like yourself, and then you start analyzing a lot of things in your life. Basically, you become your own worst critic and picking yourself apart. So, I would say that the two qualities I’d want in someone are encouragement and patience.

I think sometimes people who have individuals in their life with anxiety feel like they should be able to say “Everything’s going to be okay” and then that person is going to feel better. It’s encouraging to hear those words, but it’s not a fix-all. It’s a process of going through a day or three-day or however long span of not feeling like yourself before you can come out of it. Obviously having someone there or encouraging you will help and may help you come out of it quicker, but there’s not necessarily anything you can do to just magically make it happen.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I think that the biggest thing I’d want people to know is that if you’re struggling with anxiety and you come to a point where you need to take medicine, you shouldn’t look at that as a weakness. Coming from my really religious background, medicine was perceived as a weakness because a lot of people thought that I should be completely reliant on prayer. Not to say that’s not something that could help you, but I’ve run into a lot of people who demonstrate the same characteristics as I did before I started medicine. Some have been close friends. When I’ve asked them about it, they’ll say, “Yes, I do think i struggle with anxiety, but I don’t want to take medicine. I don’t want be dependent on something like that.” Granted, that’s to each person’s own prerogative, but I think people sometimes say that because they think it’s a weakness.

In my mind, it shows strength, because you’re taking action to move yourself from down in this dark place to become who you want to be. Why would I turn away from that? Anxiety has been an issue for me and it’s affected multiple facets of my life, but it’s not a problem I’m ashamed of or a problem that I feel bad about talking about with somebody. The more you live with it, the more you learn about it and the more ways you can help someone else who’s going through it.

Fall Tidings

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

As soon as September hits, my heart swells with joy. Yes, there’s a high of 96 today, and yes – I spent the weekend at a fall festival where the hayrides were complemented with heat stroke.

But, my heart swells. Maybe it’s the Canadian in me, but the cool breezes (well, the anticipated breezes), the colorful leaves, and the bright pumpkins remind me that I am at the mercy of the season. I stare at the sky. I spin in circles.

I hope that today, you think about what makes you literally jump for joy, and work on doing that more often. When it becomes fall (and, actually feels like fall), I actually add sound effects to my life. Every year.