Here are 7 changes I have made to improve my mental health.

Yesterday I droned on about being insecure and admittedly got a little defensive about it but didn’t actually address any of the actions that I have been taking in the past year to try and break out of this self-loathing nightmare that I live in most days.

Therapy.


I will tell anyone who will listen that I firmly believe therapy saved my life and the further I am from the first day I saw her, the more convinced of that I am. She has really helped direct me and help me hone the skills I didn’t even know I needed to overcome and change these destructive thought patterns that are pretty deeply ingrained in me. I don’t really have close friends so it’s nice for me to have someone to talk to that isn’t my partner. No offense to him, but it’s nice to get a female point of view on feelings and such, ya know?

Tracking my moods


Being aware of my moods and activities has been a huge contributor to my self-awareness. I use a simple app on my phone called Daylio. Its about as simple as it gets. A rating for your mood and an icon for your activities that day. I started off just using the default activities, but I have really gotten into adding special activities. Mainly because I can tell on days with the “sexy stuff” or “sang a song” activity checked, I record a better mood. It is nice to see it in writing, I guess, that singing and doing fun stuff helps me. Obviously, we all “know” that singing a song or dancing are natural treatments for depression, but when I saw actual evidence of it helping me specifically, it started sinking in that if I do the fucking work – no matter how much it sucks – it’ll be worth it in the end. I had a bet with my partner that if I could stick with the app for 30 days, I could purchase the full version so I could customize and make everything pink. I think today marks my 60th day in a row. Which, for someone with severe depression, doing anything positive for 60 days in a row is nothing short of a fucking miracle.

Creative shit


My fiance is a writer, and the only complaint I ever heard from him was about struggling to find the perfect header image. I started making them for him since I had a lot of down time when the baby napped and frankly, I was too fucking depressed to do much else. It ended up being something that has helped me practice my design skills, learn new techniques, push my creativity and force me to think quickly to come up with some of this shit. Seriously, I made a pretty bad ass image that I am crazy proud of for a story based on the headline One machine to rule them all: A ‘Master Algorithm’ may emerge sooner than you think.

 Designing these images has done unexpected things for my confidence and self-esteem. First of all, learning something new and going beyond my comfort zone keeps my brain busy so I am not spending that energy on dwelling, preparing, worrying, etc. The feeling of accomplishment I got when I finished a particularly challenging one is something I soon became addicted to. I was making more images than he needed at times. Finally, it feels *really* good to help my partner out, so that helps me feel a little more secure in our relationship because we’ve really upped our communication game with all of this brainstorming! Which leads me to the next little nugget of magic and fairy dust that helps me feel better. Just kidding, it’s just science. Mostly.

Open communication

I wrote a lot about communication in a previous post: Monogamy doesn’t have to mean monotony where I talked about how exposing my vulnerabilities to my partner healed some of them almost instantly. It’s like we have this dark black mucky shit inside of ourselves and sometimes all we have to do is bring some of it out and expose it to the light that is the support and kindness of someone you trust. Granted, some of it doesn’t die that easily, but through continued exposure and work, even the worst of the muck is at least starting to lose its grip a little. I know this sounds hokey, it does to me too, but that doesn’t make it any less true. This is a large reason people feel comforted by their religion. (Confess your sins and all that jazz.)

Talking about our problems helps, even if it’s hard as fuck. Because it is, most of the time. But hearing someone tell you that feeling a certain way doesn’t make you a monster, and in fact, most people feel those ways from time to time, can ease a lifetime of shame in a very short amount of time. I had never experienced this before, because I have never really trusted anyone. Sure, I’ve tried, but I couldn’t bear to be shamed over things I was already deeply ashamed of. It helped me gain new perspective and learn that a lot of the stuff that I felt made me a poisonous lecher are things a lot of us struggle with. Who knew? (Probably a lot of people)

Personal projects


This is something I struggle with. Turns out when you have no self-esteem, it’s hard to carve out time for yourself and feel like you deserve it. I am getting better at it. I’ve been working on a lot of self portrait projects, trying to really fall in love with myself for the first time. I have always had a tough time with my appearance, as most people do from time to time, so I have been focusing on really making myself vulnerable in my images and let me tell you something: I am actually starting to feel sexier. I did a nude self portrait shoot a few months ago, and I was so in awe of how beautiful my body actually looked in some of the images that I cried. It was pretty powerful stuff! A bonus here was I got to show off these images to my partner and that was, well, a sexy ass confidence boost. I have been trying to embrace the hobbies that I enjoy and don’t pursue due solely to insecurities. This one is a slow grind, but yields some pretty fantastic results.

Getting to know my body


I am 35 years old. I have two children. I’ve struggled with weight loss and weight gain and yo-yo shit my entire life, so my body doesn’t look like it did when I was a teen. I struggle with that, like I imagine most women do as we age. After I had my youngest, almost 2 years ago, I remember looking in the bathroom mirror after we had gotten home from the hospital. I hadn’t slept in days, I had just gone through a natural, no drugs birth, wearing those mesh shorts they give you and I am sure I looked like a hot mess. But, I saw myself for the first time as a mother fucking goddess who just did something not everyone could or would do. For the first time I saw my curves and saw a beautiful, strong, soft warrior who could do anything she wanted to. Of course the PPD soon sank in and tanked that, but I remember it vividly and have been working on getting back to that feeling. Every time I start to comment negatively about my breasts that sag lower than ever before, I have to remind myself that they have fed my baby for almost 2 years and they provide pleasure for both myself and my partner, who doesn’t care about a little sagging. That’s a lot of awesomeness to revel in, leaving no room for self critical nonsense. Of course it’s not just my boobs I am concerned about, but you get the picture. Replacing those unnecessary, negative thoughts and statements I have always made about my appearance with positive, kind, loving words is paying off.

Now, if you are particularly vanilla, or worry you will never be able to look me in the eye over dinner after reading a little about my sex life, you should probably just stop here. No hard feelings!

Embracing my sexuality


I mentioned the nude self portrait shoot I did earlier, but I have been expanding that to include some personal kinks and fetishes. I am trying to be more open and proud of my sexuality and embrace my sexual nature and grow from it. Twitter has helped me a great deal with that, actually. I am trying to reach out and be more social with seemingly like-minded, sex-positive individuals. It has helped me feel more confident in my kinks and more comfortable talking about them. I still struggle with worrying about what people will say, but I am trying to own my sexuality and explore my depths. My sexuality isn’t a new discovery by any means, I have always been a sexual person, but I didn’t realize how much shame I carried because of it. Coming to the realization that I am in my thirties and I love everything about sex and that’s okay has been very liberating for me.

Every day is different. Some days are awesome, and I feel like I am rocking this shit and others I feel worthless and hopeless, but I am trying to trust the process. If I can misquote Earl Hickey:

My name is Nicole and I am just trying to be a happy person

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