Unashamedly taking a step back

Life can get overwhelming…quickly. Whether you’re working too much or not enough, have bills swallowing you or a fully-furnished apartment equipped with cable and internet, it’s easy to get caught up and suddenly realize you’re in way over your head and need time to breathe.

Life in 2017 America is full of pressure: pressure to be successful, pressure to be pretty, pressure to be fit, pressure to be perfect. Adults in this country are expected to work 40+ hours a week, fully support themselves, workout daily, travel often and show off their material goods. All for what – affirmation that we’re following society’s ridiculous standards? Receiving recognition for all our accomplishments? Forget the countless nights of no sleep, early mornings, stressful days at work and god forbid more than one cheat meal per week.

Life is something you have; living, breathing creatures walk this planet, and if you are one of them, congratulations – you have a life. All right, before I tailspin off into an existential crisis, I’ll get to my point.

Life is for LIVING. That’s right, living, as simple as that. We all deserve to choose our own way to do so. The past couple of years, I’ve been working in the digital media and marketing industry. Since graduating from KU in 2015, I’ve left Kansas, moved back to Arkansas, moved to Dallas, moved back again to Arkansas and just moved back yet again to Dallas about a month ago. I’ve had two well-paying jobs for a 24-year-old with two different companies. Made some good friends through work, met a couple great mentors and learned a lot about myself.

The most important lesson I’ve learned recently, is what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to wake up each day dreading where I’m supposed to be, doing something that I’m not 100 percent passionate about and counting down the hours ’til I can go home and snuggle my dog in peace. I am a free spirit who needs to be able to explore, talk with people, hear their stories, share them with the world and walk around with a smile on my face.

When I moved back to Dallas, I didn’t have a new job lined up. I was suddenly unemployed and uncertain about what my next move would be. I unashamedly was taking a step back. Thankfully I have super supportive parents and an amazing boyfriend who helped me get on my feet. Going on about four weeks of funemployment, I’m happy to say I’ve secured a job as a barista at Starbucks and will be starting next week!

Some of you are probably sitting there judging me as I’m thrilled to share that I’m once again a barista (shoutout to my Sweetbay baes) and not currently “using my degree” for what it’s intended. But who fucking cares? I couldn’t tell you the last time I was this calm. My life has simplified and my over-analytical self has started to gradually ease into comfort. I can finally be on my feet every day at work, socializing with people and making them their favorite coffees and treats. I have time to focus on my writing and pursue freelance work on my own time, my own schedule.

Most importantly, my anxiety levels have decreased tremendously. Aside from the occasional freakouts (cue my weekly existential crisis), I wake up relaxed and go to sleep happy. Am I completely anxiety and depression free? No. Am I making plenty of money? Also no. But do I generally feel better each day and excited for what’s ahead? ABSOLUTELY.

Once I allowed myself to reconsider what it means to be a living, breathing adult in 2017, it’s like a whole new realm opened for me to explore. For now, I’ll be a barista and a writer. I may end up with enough Freelance work to make it my full-time career. I may end up pursuing a masters degree. Or, I may even end up back in the corporate world with the typical 9-to-5, who knows.

But what I do know, is we are all entitled to creating our own reality and pursuing our dreams, whatever they may be. Cheers to what’s in store!

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Please don’t ignore my ‘invisible’ illness

Hi, I’m Hannah, and I’m not your “typical” person living with anxiety and depression, according to society’s standards anyway.

When I was younger, I didn’t know much about mental illnesses, albeit my dad is a clinical psychologist. Throwing around phrases such as “they’re crazy!”, “omg you’re so insane”, or “just get out of bed already!” without knowing how hurtful or unproductive certain words can be to someone. Fast forward through an average childhood, awkward adolescence, a couple painful teenage years and a crazy college experience and here I am – a 24-year-old with a good job, fabulously decorated apartment, adorable rescue pup, loving boyfriend, supportive family and the very best friends a girl could hope for. Sounds like a perfect life, am I right?

Wrong.

More often than not, I struggle getting myself up in the morning. Some nights I hardly sleep at all due to my anxiety; I worry if it’s too quiet, I worry if it’s too noisy. I’m afraid someone is going to break into my apartment and hurt me or my dog. The couch becomes my bed half the time because that’s where my TV is and I have a clear view of the front door, you know, in case anyone tries to break in.

Other nights I fall asleep after dinner and don’t get up until the following morning. Joking about always being late and walking into the office, Starbucks in hand, I play it off as if nothing is wrong and I’m just one of those “late people”. In reality, I’m anxious. Did my boss see me? Are my coworkers whispering about me, calling me a slacker because I’m always late? I wish more than anything I could get up when my first alarm goes off instead of lying there pressing snooze for two hours. On days where my depression seems to be having a party in my brain, telling me I’m not good enough and my job isn’t worth it and I should just hide in bed all day, I finally make it to the office – sans makeup and a semi-decent outfit on.

Living with anxiety and depression can be debilitating. Trust me, I still have my days every now and then where I give into the little voice in my head telling me to stay in bed and hide from the world. However, most of the time I come across as a free-spirited, happy and successful twenty-something. This is where the dilemma lies: a thoroughly optimistic, naturally loquacious, blonde-haired blue-eyed privileged white girl walking around as if she’s got her shit together, when in reality her mind is constantly racing and it feels like there’s a raincloud right above her head.

But, this does not make my mental illnesses any less important or easier to deal with than those whose symptoms aren’t quite as camouflaged. Just because six out of seven days of the week I seem all right, doesn’t mean I really am. On days where I am more quiet at work and wear my oversized headphones that scream “leave me alone!”, I’m not mad or annoyed. I may not even be working that hard. I just need my space because it’s one of those days where dealing with myself is already too much effort and there’s no room for putting on a smile and asking how my coworker’s dinner was the night before.

The more we talk about mental illnesses in general, especially ones that are “invisible” 99 percent of the time, the easier it will be for those living with them and their loved ones, who may not understand. High-functioning anxiety is real; those of us living with it still have the same horrible worrisome thoughts, nervous habits and paranoia. However cliche “don’t judge a book by its cover” may be, it rings true for those who struggle with “invisible illnesses” on the daily.

Reach out a hand and open your ears for your loved ones when they do finally decide to spill their heart out. Take them seriously and listen – you just may end up saving their life.