The Constant Fear

I have a bunch of fears. Some of these you may find silly, but others maybe not so.

  1. I’m petrified of heights.
  2. I’m terrified of dying via an illness or a bite which makes me a bit of a hypochondriac.
  3. I’m scared of silence.
  4. I’m scared of losing the people I love.
  5. I’m terrified of the current president-elect situation
  6. Bees. That is all.
  7. I have this stupid fear that spiders seek revenge.
  8. I’m scared of my mental health dive bombing.

I face a lot of these fears everyday. The one, however, that has been on my mind the most has been #8.

I’ve been on a nice road to recovery ever since the year of living hell that was 2016. I feel genuine happiness much more often now, I haven’t had a panic attack since early December, and I haven’t felt suicidal.

Yet in these few weeks before classes begin again, I feel my depression coming back. I didn’t go to a Group Therapy meeting because I couldn’t get out of bed. Portland is currently covered in snow and I’ve only been outside once to enjoy the snowy wonderland. I have had to take drowsy medication to make myself sleep at night and my nightmares have returned. Last night, I lay awake until 3:00 in the morning, terrified that this height was going to crash again and 2017 would be exactly like 2016.

I hadn’t gotten a chance to see my therapist because of the foot of snow that is covering our driveway and street combined with my lack of chains for my tires, so we decided to call each other and have a shorter therapy session that way. Thank goodness I did.

I told her my fear of crashing back into depression again after I told her all the awesome things that have happened to me this year. She said this to me,

“You have depression, Zoey. This may just happen from time to time.”

I at first related it to that awful therapist who told me around this time last year I would have panic attacks for the rest of my life.

“Oh god no. I’m going to have depression for the rest of my life too”, I thought.

“But”, she continued, “you don’t feel suicidal right?”

“No.”

“Good! You’ve been cooped up in your house probably right?

“Yep.”

“Alright that sure doesn’t help. But this is a mental illness you have, Zoey. I know that the idea of crashing is really scary, but you have so many more tools that can keep you from collapsing again.”

She’s right, damn it.

I am terrified of becoming that depressed again. I’m scared of not being able to find joy in things I love again, of crying every day, of being unmotivated and glued to my bed.

Yet I realized that when I noticed how depressed I was feeling and the thoughts I was having, I was already using techniques that I had learned from her. I used mindfulness to recognize the depressed thoughts, label them, and put them in storage boxes to be sent away. I practiced deep breathing. I put on my meditation playlist on YouTube. I took action as soon as I recognized the thoughts happening, which I had never done before.

The bad news is that she may be right about having depressive episodes for a long time and this hasn’t exactly stopped my fear of going back to where I was. I have really serious depression and I am foolish to think that I can snap out of such a scarring mental illness so quickly. I also am terrified of bad things happening seeing as how I have a lot of evidence that shows my trend of my mental illness going to shit.

The good news is I feel much more confident about handling it. Sure, I need some days to lie in bed and feel like shit. Yet, those days when I’m lying in bed and feeling like shit I’m not letting those thoughts bring me further down. Instead, they are staying right where they are. In the morning, they feel a little lighter. It doesn’t sound like much, but for right now, it’s enough.

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

Please don’t compliment me; leave me in my bubble of self-hatred

Before you even try, no this is not a post to fish for compliments. It is actually the exact opposite of what I want.

I hate being complimented. No, I’m not saying that in an attempt at being humble or self-less, I genuinely hate it. My body reacts in a way that physically rejects your compliment. I curl up in a ball, or won’t look you directly in the eye, or grimace, or even shiver, twitch, or tense up. I’ve learned to politely say “thank you” instead of, “No…” because then people go, “No really! You’re…compliment compliment compliment” and then it gets worse.

Why does this happen?

I’ve learned it is because I think everyone is lying to me. I think that anytime a person compliments me it is because they’re trying to make me feel better about something, but they don’t mean it. Yes, this includes family and close friends who I trust.

How did this happen?

Well it goes back to middle school..(here we go again). Someone once told me that to have self-love and to think highly of yourself is egotistical and therefore unattractive and no one will like you. I, being an incredibly susceptible, insecure middle school girl who would do anything for people to like her, took another 12 year old’s words as truth. I was barely recognized in school for the significant amount of hard work I put into the arts and because I wasn’t a straight A student, I was rarely recognized for my academic achievements as well. No one in the academic system was telling me that what I was doing was right or that I was doing a good job. There were people around me who were consistently putting themselves down over grades and other insecurities and I fell into this as well, well into high school.

By high school, I had been living with un-diagnosed depression since about 8th grade. I decided that I was fed up with being put down and not being recognized, so instead of saying, “Fuck what other people think!” I built a wall of self-hated around myself thinking, “No one can hate me more than myself. That way people can’t hurt me.” And that wall has remained  sturdy ever since.

Now that I am out of that hell hole and I’m immersed in the most welcoming community I could ever ask for, there is no need for this safe wall of hatred that I created and maintained for so many years. But even having an idea of loving myself scares the living shit out of me. What if someone does think I’m egotistical? What happens if I get hurt again?

I’m so utterly terrified of being hurt that it is my worst nightmare to leave this box. I would rather hate myself than risk being hurt (and now that is put in words I see how ridiculous that sounds). My therapist is slowly coaxing me out of this box. She knows that this is something I can’t be extremely exposed or pushed into, like my anxiety therapy was, because the first slip can send me racing back into it and may cause me to ease back into the depression I’m fighting so hard to keep off. So we’re taking baby steps.

She’s having me start with the one thing I know to be true about myself. I am passionate. I always have been passionate and its one flame that has never even flickered during any hardship in my life. So she told me to repeat this phrase in my head everyday:

“I love that I am passionate.”

I say this sentence until the words “I love” can be successfully associated with “I am passionate”. The words “I love myself” with “passion” aren’t scary anymore. This is secure. No one can take my passion away and therefore I am safe to love myself because of it.

It may seem like not even a baby step, but this is HUGE for me. Not even huge, world shaking. To have even a glimmer of self-love is mind-blowing.

I’m starting small so I can end big. It will be a twisty, winding, uphill road. I’m just hoping the view at the end is worth it and I don’t fall off the mountain during my journey.

Okay?

Zoey K.

Teaching my body that I’m getting better

I am in this very weird conundrum. I am on medication that helps me get out of bed and gives me the energy my depression was sucking away. I actually feel joy for the first time this entire year. My anxiety is on the low, with only a panic attack once a month (and usually for predictable reasons). Yet, my body still is in shelter mode.

I realized this when I was lying stark awake, anxious out of my mind the first day of winter break at my parent’s house. I was anxious because I had nothing to be anxious about, but my brain convinced me that there was something I had to be anxious about. I was anxious about not being anxious. How the actual fuck does that work? Then, I started getting exhausted again and my brain immediately started gravitating back toward the intense depression (its more on a mild scale now) but my chemistry was just fine. It threw out suggestions of suicide but I in no way felt suicidal.

What the hell brain??

I talked to my mom about this and she said that my brain hasn’t gotten accustomed to being okay because I was in such a detrimental mental state for so long. The idea of being genuinely happy and relaxed was something my brain and my body hadn’t felt for nearly an entire year. Once the horrendous feelings were being subdued, it was like taking away the drug from the addict. I think I’m going through mental illness withdrawals.

Is that a thing?

Does this happen to anyone else?

Okay?

Zoey K.

*sheepishly waves*

Hi internet,

It’s been….it’s been a while. I have drafts upon drafts of things I wanted to put on this blog but never had the confidence to press publish. My reasons for not doing so were grounded and personal, mainly because they were either so depressing or suicidal or a combination of both, I was worried that posting them would do more harm than good for other people around me.

I know I’m not alone when I say 2016 was a horrendous year for. Multiple celebrities I looked up to have passed; the US president-elect is the stuff of my nightmares; I reached such a low point in my depression that when I couldn’t tell if I was getting better or not, my mom hugged me and said, “You’re back with us again.” I very seriously attempted suicide. Got my letter written and everything. I’ve never felt more alone, but somehow I also have never felt more supported in my life. It’s interesting how depression fucks things up like that.

I have not stopped thanking people who have helped me during this steaming shit pile that is this year. For the sake of their privacy, I will not disclose who, but for those who are Facebook friends with me, you have seen that status expressing my gracious amount of thanks and I have never stopped feeling unbelievably thankful.

I don’t want to say that 2017 is going to be better because I thought 2015 was a steaming pile of shit and then it got about a million times worse in 2016. I have no idea what 2017 is going to be like. I don’t even want to hope 2017 is going to be better because I have had my hopes dashed so many times this year that I’ve given up. I’m not going to say “New year, new me” because honestly, I’m new everyday.

Instead I’m going to live a day at a time. Yes I am scared of this year because my mind no longer believes things will get better, but instead lives in a constant state of fear of what will get worse (I’m working on it). I can’t be scared if I’m living in this exact moment. Nothing can hurt me in this present moment. The past can’t hurt me, the future can’t hurt me. Yes the present can, but I will deal with it a moment at a time.

I feel like that’s all I can do. No promises, no resolutions, just taking one day at a time.

Okay?

Zoey K.

How are you?

I want to obliterate that question from our normal conversation.

I work in retail so I have to ask every customer that question and in return they answer and then return the question right back to me. This is how it usually goes:


Me: Hello! Find everything alright?

Customer: Yep!

Me: Great! How are you doing today?

Customer: I’m doing pretty well, how about you?

Me: I’m doing alright thanks!


You know what that conversation is laced with?

LIES.

But you can’t just tell a stranger the truth about how you’re really feeling. Can you imagine? It would probably go something like this:


Me: Hello! Find everything alright?

Customer: Yep!

Me: Great! How are you doing today?

Customer: I’m in a shopping mall and you’re not folding fast enough and my kid is wrecking your display but I’m not going to tell them not to because I’m exhausted from having to deal with my own kid everyday. I’m a tired, over-worked mother and please just give me my new clothes. How are you doing?

Me: Well I’m horrendously depressed and exhausted from acting happy everyday and I’m just trying to live and not think about killing myself all the time because that’s a thing now and life is just a real piece of shit right now and I’m working to keep myself busy so that I don’t constantly think about how awful I feel, thanks for asking!


No, we can’t do that because no one wants to hear it. No one wants to be a “downer”. So we lie. The only people who we can tell the truth to are friends and family who genuinely want to know how we’re doing. But people who I’m ringing up a shirt for? They could give less of a shit how I’m doing and it goes the same for me. Its not that we’re rude people, its just that we simply don’t have enough energy to carry the load of a stranger’s daily problems and true feelings.

So how can we fix this?

I’ve personally started complimenting customers instead of asking how their day is going. Whether its their hair or their glasses or their little earrings or just the fact that I like how they matched their clothing, I throw a compliment. This way, I don’t have to be asked how my day is and be thrown back into reality and they get a compliment and we both feel good.

How do you handle getting that question thrown at you? Leave it in the comment section or tweet at me! (@okayzoeyk)

Have a day filled with kittens, okay?

Zoey K.

Fun story about retail: One day a kid asked me if we had any wrist clocks. I nearly farted I laughed so hard.

Meditation: You Should Try It!

For some reason or another, I rejected meditation for a long time. Maybe it was because my mom told me it was great and obviously in the mind of young adults, anything a mom says automatically makes it “uncool”. I think it was also because the idea of thinking about breathing really freaks me out and therefore makes me think too hard about breathing and then I get anxious and therefore feel like I can’t breathe and its a vicious cycle.

However, while I was in anxiety treatment , I was shown Mindfulness Meditation.

“What?”, you may be saying, “Isn’t that just exactly the same thing with a different word thrown in front of it? Isn’t it still the same meditation you don’t like?”

No, dear reader, its quite different actually.

The goal of mindfulness meditation is for one to focus not on the breath, but on the complete absence of thinking. Its teaching how to let your mind be blank and how to treat the thoughts that may be wreaking havoc on our mind to slow down and simply let them pass. Its not about pushing your thoughts away, but simply letting acknowledging that the thought occurred, and then letting them go.

I may be making it sound easy, but its actually quite difficult and isn’t the same kind of relaxing meditation that we may think of after yoga. It actually take a lot of effort to let your mind be totally blank, especially if you have any sort of stress or anxiety. When you are experiencing tumultuous amounts of stress and anxiety is exactly when you should mindfully meditate. I still find my mind wandering when I do mindfulness and I’ve been doing it for months now every night before I go to sleep (it also helps with my constant nightmares!)

So to get you started on the mindfulness train, I thought I’d give you some places to check out:

To Begin:

MindfulPeace, the YouTube channel, has a bunch of really awesome videos, the man who speaks has a voice like silk, and the link above goes to their beginners guide to mindfulness meditation. It is a simple guided meditation to introduce you to not only mindfulness, but meditation as a whole. Other videos by them I would recommend:

  • Mindfulness for Sleep:  If you’re having trouble sleeping, I recommend this highly. I fall asleep usually 15 minutes into this 20 minute video. If you don’t like countdowns, however, I don’t recommend it.
  • Mindfulness for Depression:  It made my depression feel authentic and it got me to stop the lies depression yells at me, even if it was only for 20 minutes.
  • Mindfulness on Present Moment: Staying in the present moment is so difficult, especially when you’re worrying so much on the future. This meditation allows you to just live in the moment and stop thinking about your future for just 20 minutes. This is a common one I do in 10 minutes every day with an app called Headspace (another great place to begin with mindfulness)

Specifically Anxiety:

  • Mindfulness for Anxiety and Fear: Another one from MindfulPeace. Not as long as some of the other ones, but certainly is a comforting one.
  • Over-Thinking: Yes, its nearly 45 minutes long, but I highly recommend this one right before you go to sleep. Its ok if you fall asleep during the meditation, that means you’re really relaxed. I find this is another great one if you’re feeling particularly stressed out.
  • A Lil’ Bit of Everything: This one is on the shorter end, but its also really nice. If you’re more into a female voice, I recommend this channel and this video.

Other Kinds of Meditating:

  • Chakras:  If you’re into chakras or want to focus specifically on one part of you that may be nagging at you, I highly recommend this one.
  • Oceans: If the idea of being underwater calms you down, this one is super neat and really relaxing.
  • Forest Walk: Oceans not you’re thing? Try this one instead!

 

Happy meditating! Let me know your meditating experience down in the comments!

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

We’re Not Cookies

TW: suicide.


The title seems laughably cheesy, but I wished I had realized it earlier.

I have been through a lot of shit in my life that I wish that I had never been through and for a while it seemed like the shit never stopped coming my way. When I was taught to stop looking at life like its my constant enemy and started learning to love myself, my life really and truly started turning around. But I made a mistake in this positive growth; I thought I was nearly done. I thought all I needed was the icing on the cake (which for me is not visibly cringing and recoiling when I receive compliments) and then I’d be a better version of myself; a complete metamorphosis of the girl who is Zoey. But I was wrong.

Over the past couple of days I made a lot of stupid mistakes that I wish I could turn back time and undo. But I can’t. Instead of accepting my actions, learning from them, and moving on, I couldn’t handle what I had did and so I tried to end my life for what feels like the umpteenth time in a year. Suddenly, it was like because I had made these mistakes that completely questioned my character of who I thought I was, I didn’t trust myself anymore. All of that work I did on self love was thrown out the window. I started hating myself and this hidden element that I had discovered had stained me. I couldn’t love myself with this revealed new piece to my puzzle without edges. I didn’t think I could let anyone love me now that this part of me had been revealed to me and I didn’t trust myself with anyone. So what is the answer? Suicide of course because what normal person would think of that.

So I spent some time in a hospital recovering and then after that rather horrific experience, I saw my therapist today.

I explained to her why I didn’t feel fit to live and the situation that led me to this life-ending decision. I told her why I felt like I couldn’t love myself again and she asked a really important question:

“Who are you besides what you have been made to believe?”

I took a longer pause than I probably should have. “I’m…a singer and an art historian.”

Therapist: “There’s much more than just your majors.”

Me: “…..I’m a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend.”

Therapist: “And you are many, many other things. You have to realize that you cannot let one flaw that someone has revealed to you define your entire self and your entire existence. That sounds like the perfect recipe to drive yourself crazy.”

Damn those therapists…they’re smart as fuck.

So my warning to you readers, and what I’m taking from this experience, is that we people are not baked goods. We’re never done.

We’re more like trees: we keep growing and growing until one day we reach that life span or the sun explodes or something. Sometimes we get mites in our barks, but we still have the root system under which we started and just because there’s mites, doesn’t mean they’ll stay there forever and that suddenly the rest of the tree is worthless. There are still are all of those branches that took all that time to grow and are still continuing to grow.  A bird may come and eat the mites and that doesn’t mean the mite problem is suddenly solved.

I’m going to continue growing my branches and my root system and I’m going to call every bird in the forest to come get rid of these mites until I can go back to being a healthy tree again. But for now, its a work in progress.

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call or text one of the following numbers and seek help immediately. There is help and you are never alone. 

Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741 

Me vs. Silence

I’ve been busy these past couple of weeks hence why I haven’t posted in quite a long time. I moved in to a house with 3 of my best friends, got a job, and for once, I feel like my depression is starting to lift for the first time in almost a year. My panic attacks have been coming infrequently (about every 2-3 weeks instead of every week or biweekly) and because I’ve been doing mindfulness meditation every night, I haven’t had nightmares nearly as often. So you could say things are finally starting to look up. Thanks universe!

I’ve still been trying to stop the things in my life that give me anxiety as much as possible and even if it does, sitting with it like I would with my exposure therapy in treatment. One thing I noticed while I was driving back to Portland from visiting Seattle for a few days is how much anxiety silence gives me.

Some people say they can’t live without music to show off to others how much music fills their life and “wow look at me I like music I must be special worship me pleb but yet I’ve never picked up an instrument but I can “sing” because I can sing sort of kind of good in my mind to Adele on the radio” and yada yada yada.

I say I can’t live without music quite literally because silence drives me a little mental. I cook, study, read, fall asleep to, and am constantly surrounded by music because silence frightens me. I always knew that something about complete silence threw me off. I don’t necessarily have to have music (something specifically with a melody) per say. There needs to be some sort of prominent rhythmic sound around me at all times. Maybe it has something to do with my synesthesia  and maybe its because my family played music at all times of the day for my entire life. When I was taking tests, I could hardly concentrate because of the silence. Lying in bed with complete silence scares the living shit out of me. Sitting in a waiting room or on a public transit without music fills me with untold anxiety. For a long time I had no idea why.

I realized why while listening to Twenty One Pilot’s song Car Radio. Normally the song helps me get out of suicidal or depressing thoughts (mainly both of their first two albums) but it also helped me realize that silence is violent to me. Like how Tyler quickly lists off strings of consciousness through the song, that’s what my mind does when I don’t have some sort of sound filling my ears. Thoughts that normally are quiet suddenly flood my head like a dam failing. I try to do the tips my therapist in treatment taught me about how to handle so many thoughts and let them pass, but when they’re drowning your mind, its hard not to suffocate. I notice that when I fall asleep without music, I get more nightmares because my mind tends to think endlessly before it falls away to exhaustion. A normally anxious situation will suddenly become hundreds of times worse because its completely silent.

If you were ever wondering why I ask you to put on Chopin while I’m having a panic attack and maybe have you talk about something wonderful that happened in your life, its because these sounds and music calm me down to an “eh” level of intolerable panic (may not sound great, but its a huge improvement from the “oh shit” level of intolerable panic).

I did exposures with silence while I was in treatment, and I have realized that I really need to keep exposing myself to it more and more as I continue to make huge strides in conquering my anxiety. My improvement is already monumental, but I want it win this war once and for all, even if it includes winning little battles like this.

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

A New Chapter

Today was my last day of treatment in Sacramento. After 5 weeks of isolation, really hard work, crying, a break up, and panic attacks, I have successfully completed my treatment here. But this does not mean that my work is over; far from it. It means that I have finally gotten off my butt after falling flat on it and I’ve started to walk.

I resisted this program very much when I started. But I’m glad that I went against my gut for once because it was ridiculously rewarding.

I am incredibly grateful to my therapist and the people in group therapy who helped me. I grew every single day as a person from what I learned from my therapist, and from them. I had numerous accomplishments during that time.

♦Accomplishments!♦

  • No panic attacks for 2 weeks
  • Forgave people I thought I couldn’t
  • Dean’s List
  • Felt good about blog posts
  • Able to go roller skating after a panic attack
  •  Learned a new roller trick
  • Able to catch cognitive distortions
  • Didn’t beat myself up
  • Finally able to do mindfulness meditation
  • Wrote a thank you note to myself and believed it
  • Being really and truly proud of myself
  • Got to a zero in an exposure
  • Made it successfully through this program
  • Able to sing Adele with crying.

Although some of these accomplishments don’t seem like much, every single one of them was huge for me. I started treating small things like learning a new roller skating trick and able to sing Adele without crying as huge victories and that made me feel like a more worthy person. My therapist helped me with that. When I said that I learned a new roller skating trick after saying that I was able to catch my cognitive distortions (aka hating myself) she told me to write it down in my accomplishments. I guess its little things like that where it makes just living feel like an accomplishment.

Accomplished Goals:

  • Started self-love
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Said goodbye to my hurtful past
  • Started looking and loving the present
  • Stopped self-harm for good
  • No more suicidal thoughts
  • Stopped thinking of myself as fucked up
  • Learned mindfulness
  • Focused on the positive
  • Forgiveness

What did I learn?

So. Much.

I learned the difference between self-love and being egotistical. I learned that fighting anxiety will always make it worse, but embracing it and hugging it till it goes away actually works (lookin’ at you exposures). I learned that the wall I built doesn’t keep me safe, it keeps me closed and therefore when me and my therapist started knocking it down, I became significantly more open. Just because the wall is starting to come down doesn’t mean I’m in danger, it means I’m exposed; which isn’t always a bad thing. I learned that opening up to people doesn’t make me weak or exposed; it educates and gives people hope.

I learned how to treat myself like I would a best friend: tenderly and with all the love in the world. I’m still working on it and it will continue to be a work in progress, but I’m hoping that I will one day be able to love myself as much I will a significant other.

I learned fear can be turned into strength. I learned sometimes you have to do the things that terrify you in order to move. My therapist compared it to the “Going on a Bear Hunt” story. You encounter something; you can’t go around it, you can’t go below it, and you can’t go above it. So you got to go through it.

I learned that change doesn’t happen unless you make it. Just because I wanted to change didn’t mean that it was just going to come to me. I had to actually work towards the change and accept that change is scary. But its a good kind of scary. Like a roller coaster kind of scary.

Final Advice:

If you have started your first steps in treatment, I want you to know that it is okay to take them tentatively. This is a progress where you are going to change as human in a really drastic way, and its going to be scary and its going to be a little terrifying too. But please trust me when I say that it is going to be so worth it. Keep a journal so you can keep track of your progress. Also, when you finish your work isn’t done. You have started a new chapter in your life where you are using your tools that you have gained through treatment and you are applying them to your life. Now, you can start living.

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

LDRs as Told by Zoey

While I was with my , now, ex-boyfriend, I kept logs of how I felt during our long distance relationship. It was filled with the ups and downs of what being in a long distance relationship between two continents was like and I thought it would be great to share once we finally came back to each other. We would be separated from each other by thousands of miles for nearly 8 months. I had already had one failed long distance relationship and I was absolutely terrified I would be experiencing my second.

I’m not going to share these logs. I deleted them. It brings back a lot of pain I am not ready to face right now. But instead, I thought that I would share at least what being in a long distance relationship (twice) was like. You can do what you want with my experiences, take it as a warning or take it with a grain of salt, but I wanted to put this out there for 0other people and also for me. (To keep things clear, most recent Ex: Ex 1. First ex: Ex 2.


In my opinion, the hardest part of long distance is goodbye. I’ve never felt words choke out of my mouth like they did when I had to say goodbye to my most recent ex. When he finally let go of my hand, I felt like my world crashed down around me.Saying goodbye is not easy and it doesn’t get easier. I would visit my first boyfriend  every 2-3 months and it hurt like a bitch every time. I kept thinking, “Its going to get easier, its going to get easier.” And it never did. I wish sometimes I could have seen my most recent boyfriend, but at other times I was very glad I didn’t.

Skype is an amazing invention, but keeping it at a minimum of once a week makes it much sweeter. That way, you actually have something to talk about. Nothing sucks more than staring at a screen with having absolutely nothing to say. Yes, seeing their face is nice and all, but sometimes it makes the missing worse.  Texting is also awesome, but again I was really thankful that he and I were on wildly different time zones. That way I felt like we were both having our own experiences and we weren’t texting each other while going on about our day. Instead, Ex 1 and I texted when we woke up and before we went to bed for about 20 minutes and then had to say goodbye.

I was with Ex 2 for 5 years before he finally left for school and we had never spent a moment a part from each other except for being on different campuses when he was in high school and I in middle school. When he went to college while I was in high school, the whole world shifted. I had never been this far away from him before for so long. With Ex 1, we spent every winter and summer break apart from each other for months and weeks at a time, so distance wasn’t foreign to us when we parted on our separate journeys. That being said, it didn’t make it any easier.

Maturity levels also played a lot into our relationship. I have grown significantly as person between when I was dating Ex 2 vs. dating Ex 1. And this may be just advice in general, but there is a huge difference between a high school and a college relationship. My relationship with Ex 1 was just a more mature relationship in general. I think if we had survived the distance, and I really wish we had, it would have made us stronger as a couple. We were tackling really difficult things a part and if we had stayed together, we would have been stronger than ever.

Something that actually made us feel more together was when we played video games together. Even something as simple as Words with Friends made me feel like we were doing something together, and when we played Civilization V together for hours on end, it made me feel like he was really there with me. We also were a gamer couple to begin with, but if you and your partner weren’t, it might be fun to try it anyway. Although Civilization V is a little pricey, you can find plenty of cheap coplayer games on Steam or even free MMOs online to play together.

One of the other hardest parts of a LDR is the fact that you don’t witness how much each other change. Both he and I were going through some really life altering changes from our own study abroad experiences, and many times this would make us butt heads and get into disagreements when we had never fought before. Be prepared for this, but understand why it happens so forgiveness (if needed) can be immediate. As a couple, you’re keenly aware of when one goes through a change and you’re most likely there to witness it. When you’re away, you don’t see it at all.

Communication about how you are feeling is key. You have to let each other know how you’re doing; tell them the ups and the downs. If you hide how much the distance is hurting you, like I did in my first relationship, then it will tear it a part from the inside out. If you feel like you’re falling out of love with that person, tell them. If you feel like things are going better than expected, tell them. Keeping each other clued in about how you’re feeling as a whole about the relationship is incredibly important.

I don’t believe in taking breaks, but I know a lot of couples who do. I witnessed most couples who “took a break” (meaning they still were together but saw people on the side) break up in the end and end up with the people they saw on the side. I know couples who have taken breaks who have been just fine. I don’t believe in it because it just didn’t make any sense. I didn’t have any interest in seeing anyone else and I felt like if my Ex 1 saw anyone else, even if we were on a break, I would still get tremendously hurt.

Last but not least, your mental health comes first before the relationship. I wish I had ended my first relationship earlier because I spiraled down into horrendous separation anxiety and depression and that LDR is what caused me to have my first panic attack at prom. When the idea of ending a relationship starts to take a weight off your shoulders, its time to take a break or end it. I am not sure if my depression and anxiety were worse because of my most recent LDR, but they certainly didn’t help. Take care of yourself.

In the wise words of Rupaul Charles: “If you can’t love yourself how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?”

Amen Ru, Amen.

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.