A Letter To My 16 Year Old Self

Dear 16 year old me,

Hi! Things are probably a little complicated right now. Please sit, and take some time to read a little advice I have for you from my place of perspective.

Yearbook photo of Leigh at 16 years old, junior year in high school.

Stress less over your grades.

Yes, they are important, but I promise it isn’t worth the stress you put yourself under. Do your best, and know that is enough. Don’t stay up until all hours trying to make it perfect. Go do more with friends.

Speaking of which…

Real friends don’t regularly leave you out of plans.

And a real best friend doesn’t let them. You have friends outside of your main group, so make some plans with them and have fun.

Yearbook photo of Leigh in yearbook, wearing Josh's Quail Valley jacket.
My yearbook photo of me with the yearbook staff.

Tell your mom what goes on at school.

That’s her territory too, and maybe she’ll have some ideas for you. You aren’t on your own yet, take advantage of that fact.

Just do the damn chores she asks you to do.

Doing housework will never get easier, and it will make you a little more prepared for dealing with your own place.

You are right to trust your gut.

It rarely leads you wrong. You will find you are spot on about people most of the time, and really accurate in other situations too.

You are not fat, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you were.

Keep moving like you do, eat what makes you feel good, and it will be fine. What your body can do is much more important than what it looks like, and you need to appreciate it.

Write down those recipes from your grandmas.

Anything you like, get that recipe for later. Sure, they can make it now, but you never know if you will want to make it much later on.

Year book photo of Leigh singing in a vocal concert. Other faces are masked with smiley stickers and musical notes.
Myself singing in a vocal concert. Other identities have been hidden with stickers. 🙂

Guilt trips say more about the person doling them out than about you.

Don’t let them get to you. If you feel confident in your choices, let anybody else’s opinion roll off your back.

I think that is about all that applies for now. Have fun these last years of high school, and don’t worry. You will have very few regrets.

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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7 Favorite Spoonie Products I Can’t Live Without

Having a chronic illness (or many) gives you some unique needs. Over the past few years, I’ve figured out solutions for some of mine. I decided to share my 7 favorite spoonie products with you here.

Mobisyl

Mobisyl Pain Relieving Creme
I like to buy the larger tub. It’s 8oz (vs. this 3.5 oz) and lasts me a full year.

This pain relieving cream is my go-to. I love that there is no menthol in it, so it is safe to use on my hands with no worry about it getting into my eyes. Mobisyl works really well on most of my pains, reducing the amount of pain killers I need to use. This may not work for everyone as I’m sure many people have more severe pain than I do. To give you an idea though, when I was waiting on my surgery for the torn meniscus in my left knee, Mobisyl made a big difference in my comfort.

Dr. Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt Body Lotion

Dr. Teals Pure Epsom Salt Body Lotion
I usually buy the Lavender since I use it mainly at night, but there are other scents available.

I rely on this lotion to help me with the leg cramps and muscle twitches caused by my fibromyalgia at night. After running out I decided I can never let that happen again. A few sleepless nights made that decision for me. I’m really glad it is available on Amazon Prime (a whole other favorite of mine).

Shower Chair

White Shower Chair
This is the chair I bought. It is very sturdy, and has never made me feel unsteady.

I never want to be without my shower chair. It saves me so much energy that I need elsewhere. Thinking about getting one but hesitating? Stop putting it off, and just get one. I promise a shower chair is well worth it. Between the energy saved, and the security of not worrying about your balance, it is money well spent.

Bath Cloth

Purple gentle bath cloth from Body Benefits
I had a hard time finding the exact one I use to show you, but I think this is very close. When it is time to replace my current one, I’ll be buying this one.

My hands don’t always grip very well, and sometimes my shoulders get stiff. This can make washing up a challenge. I bought quite a few different products before finally finding this one that I love. It is thin and easy to rinse, so I don’t need hand strength to rinse and squeeze it out. It is long and narrow (as you can see in the picture) so it makes it easier to wash my back. I can also either fold/wad it in my hand to make it easy to hold, or wrap it around my hand if I have no grip that day. There is an exfoliating version, but I bought this gentle style, so I can use it even when my skin is feeling extra sensitive.

Knorks

4 matt knorks
We bought ours from a local shop about 10 years ago.

These work like a fork and knife together. I love these because they are slightly thicker, so they are easier for me to hold. Knorks also make it possible for me to use one utensil to cut food when other forks would hurt my hand or make a knife necessary. You will still need a steak knife for steak maybe, but we regularly use only a knork on chicken, pork chops, etc.

The reviews on Amazon mention rusting. Ours have never rusted over the years, but they are around 10 years old so there is a chance the quality has changed. Personally, I’m thrilled with ours and hope to buy four more some day.

Healthy Back Bag

eggplant colored "Healthy Back Bag"
This is the exact bag I bought myself.

I bought this to use as a purse a couple years ago. From the moment I opened the package, I fell in love, and I haven’t changed my mind since. The adjustable strap design allows me to throw the bag over my shoulder, or across my chest depending on what is more comfortable that day.

These bags have a wonderful assortment of pockets, both open and zippered, for organizing your stuff. After a ton of deliberation, I decided on the small size. I need plenty of space, but I didn’t want to be able to overload it and make it too heavy either. Extra small would likely have been fine, since I do tend to accumulate enough in mine to get a bit heavy on my shoulder. It’s really nice having that space available just in case I end up out and about for a longer day.

As you can see, it carries a good amount. Here is the inside of the main compartment.

Two pictures. One of the inside of my purse. One shows my love eyes emoji hand sanitizer holder.
At the top of the zipper, there is a place to hook stuff. I keep my memberships cards here. I also have some hand sanitizer attached to the zipper for easy use.

And here is everything that fits in each of those pockets.

A picture of a lot of junk from my purse. Includes my wallet, pens, two mini notebooks for blogging and medical notes, wrist warmers, nylon shopping bags, pill boxes and more.
Each pile is from a separate compartment.

This shows the outer zippered pocket and it’s contents.

Picture shows inside the outer pocket and the contents. Those include eye drops, travel hand cream, pill box, ear plugs and some mints.
That is one deep pocket.

The picture of the bag up top shows this zippered pocket. It’s large.

On the other side of the bag, there is another pocket that is just open with no closure. I usually stick my grocery list and phone in here. Sometimes my keys go in here, and other times I clip them on with my membership cards.

Finally, there is this nifty narrow, side zipped pocket on the opposite side from the main compartment zipper.

"Secret" pocket with my disability parking card and house key. House key is purple with butterflies and attached to a felt camper keychain that hides the key.
Like my camper key ring? It’s so cute! The key is attached to a leather cord that pulls the key into the camper pocket.

As you can see, my disability parking card and my key ring tuck way down into this pocket. You can hardly see it in there. I rarely need these things, but don’t want to be without them, so I keep them in this really cool compartment.

If I need to, I can still fit a water bottle and a couple of snacks into this bag. It will feel heavy, but it won’t be overstuffed for space. I seriously love this bag.

Wrist Warmers

I bought a couple different types, and used my loom to knit up another pair. The set I linked to here are the softer of the two I bought. I really love this brand and definitely recommend them.

Picture shows long purple wrist warmers with shiny black buttons edged in gold. They are lying on a shiny silver nylon mesh drawstring bag they came in. Next to them are the teal/gray short wrist warmers I knit.
I bought the purple wrist warmers, and made the teal/gray ones.

This is the pattern I used to loom knit my other faves. These are the ones I wear at night when my hands get cold. I also used this pattern to make Christmas gifts for many of the women in my life a couple of years ago. They are quick and easy to make. I almost forgot I knit a red set for my youngest. He uses them as gauntlets, and tells me they shoot fire. 😉

I actually have some more favorite spoonie products I could add to this list, but the post is pretty darn long already. So, I’ll end this here, and follow-up with another like it if you all are interested. 🙂

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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Are You Worthy Of Love?

The Quote

You are worthy of love

You are worthy of love.

Someone recently asked me what this quote means to me. Why do I believe these words are true? Although the question surprised me, I thought it was a really good one. I gave them an answer after some consideration, but I really wanted to expand on those thoughts further here.

The Question

Why are we worthy of love? What makes me agree that love isn’t something we should need to earn? To me, when a child is born, they deserve love. We would never think to withhold love from them until they earned it. So, why do we think there is some arbitrary age that we suddenly do need to earn love?

flawed, & (still) worthy

The Science

Studies prove that love is as much a necessity as food, water, and oxygen. While we can all agree that it is wrong to withhold these life essentials, we tend to think that we don’t deserve love unless we prove ourselves. Love really is essential to our lives though. Of course it starts in infant-hood, and can make a big difference in how the child thrives or doesn’t. The idea is further pointed out in this blog:

As infants and small children, our first task is to get at least one of our parents to love us enough to meet our needs for sustenance, but also touch. With rare exception, the love and safety hormone, oxytocin, is released into our mother’s body, concentrating the focus of her attention on us … and this loving attention releases the same hormone in our body, ensuring we survive. As critical as food, shelter, sustenance are to our survival, they do not suffice in the early months and first years. Babies do not physically survive without love.

As studies of attachment show, infants and small children actively seek a love bonding with their caregivers. To live, newborns must form some type of bond, regardless whether it feels relatively secure or insecure, with their mother or a “mothering” person, at least one.

Later on, love is still very important. This article points out how our brains actually prioritize it over sex.

While many women may be convinced men’s brains are wired more powerfully for sex, Fisher says there’s evidence men are also powerfully wired for romance.

“Men fall in love faster than women do, because men are so visual,” she notes. “And three out of four people who kill themselves over love are men, not women.”

Fisher adds: “You know, this is a powerful drive, and an essential part of humanity. … It would be very unadaptive if men didn’t fall in love just as powerfully as women.”

You are worthy of love.

This quote puts the responsibility of you on you. It does not say you are responsible for proving love to others. Instead, you are responsible for searching out love for yourself and surrounding yourself with people who are able to provide it.

In other words, while all people do deserve love, this quote is not saying you have to provide it. If someone is a toxic presence in your life, it is okay to love them from a distance. It is their responsibility to find someone who can give them the love they deserve, and there is nothing wrong with that person not being you.

Self-Love

This is where self-love comes in to play. Knowing that you are lovable and worth taking care of will allow you to regulate who you have in your life. It is much easier to release negative people, who you may still love, from your life when you know that it is ok to take care of yourself first. Re-evaluate people in your life who do not add positivity and support. Give serious thought to either cutting them out, or at least scaling way back on how much they are allowed to have influence in your life. I’ve written more on self-love here and here.

Humans are social animals, and can not thrive without outside interaction. In fact, studies have been done showing how damaging solitary confinement is to humans.  We are also wired to need to belong as mentioned in this post of mine. How can anyone think that love is not also wired in as a need and therefore something we do not need to earn or deserve? No, I’m sure you are worthy of love.

If you have any additional thoughts on this subject, please feel free to leave a comment or send an email. I’d love to hear from you!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

6 Ways to Show Love to Yourself During Recovery

6 Ways to Show Love to Yourself During Recovery

Note: I want to thank the writers from the Westwind Recovery blog for guest posting today. I hope you enjoy their informative post on self-love during recovery.

Learning to love yourself after dealing with addiction is a slow but critical process that allows you to grow as a person. During treatment, you worked through difficult issues that led to your substance abuse, and you have conquered many painful events from your past. Now, it is time to show yourself a little love for all that hard work, and these six ideas will jump-start your efforts at self-improvement.

Spend Time with Your Pet

There is nothing like an animal for teaching you how to love unconditionally. Whether you own a dog, cat or fish, they do not care about the things you might have done in your past. All that they care about is enjoying your love in the present. Make sure that your new sober living arrangements allow pets so that you can bring your pooch or kitten along with you. Spending time stroking your pet’s fur helps to alleviate stress, and you will learn valuable lessons about what it means to have a companion who is willing to stick by your side.

Surround Yourself with Understanding Friends

Letting go of your friends from the past might have been necessary as part of your recovery. While it might be tempting to just live life alone, you should remember that loneliness can be a trigger for relapse. Find people who understand what it means to live with an addiction, and begin putting together a support network that includes a variety of types of people. Whether you meet with a mental health counselor once a week or enjoy chatting with your sober housemate, giving yourself people to open up to is a wonderful way to show yourself that you are valued by others.

Challenge Yourself Physically

Learning how to manage stress is one of the biggest gifts that you can give yourself. Make sure to treat your body with the respect that it deserves by making exercise a regular part of your routine. You can also turn your exercise routines into a mental boost by incorporating challenges into your workouts. For instance, you may choose to master surfboarding for the summer, or you could set reaching a new distance for your hikes as a goal. Hitting your goals will give you more confidence, and your body will quickly respond to your self-love by getting stronger and healthier.

Nurture Your Body with Healthy Food

Recovery is hard on your body, and you might have ignored your nutritional needs while you were dealing with addiction. Start exploring new ways to prepare healthy ingredients that are as delicious as they are nutritious. Consider pairing up with a housemate who loves gourmet cooking, or you could take a class from a nearby chef. Providing your body with the fuel that it needs to function at peak capacity is an important part of loving yourself, and enjoying a tasty meal is just a great way to start and end each day.

Learn Your Favorite Ways to Relax

Indulging in a few pampering sessions is warranted when you have gone so long fighting to get sober. While you can do your best to minimize stress, the truth is that life still goes on. Make sure to have a few tools in your plans for handling times when it feels impossible to relax. Jump in the hot tub, soak up the sun at the beach or just gather around the fire pit for some laughs with your friends. Your mental outlook will change once you discover that it’s possible to relax while you are living a sober life! Once you have a few favorite tricks up your sleeve, make sure to indulge in a pampering session at least once a week. You can even plan five-minute relaxation breaks such as rubbing lotion on your hands or inhaling an essential oil such as lavender so that you can fit little mini-breaks throughout your day.

Keep a Journal of Your Progress

During times of discouragement, remember that you can be your own best friend. Start a journal now that documents your progress, and don’t be shy about listing your achievements. From jotting down a quick note about that random act of kindness you performed at the store to creating a list of the times you made it through a craving, reading back through your shining moments gives you a light to use during times of darkness.

At first, it may seem selfish to show yourself love. Yet, you must nurture your body and spirit if you want to be a better person who can also help others. Use these six ideas as a guide to get started, but keep adding to it as you find out more about what makes you feel best. Then, be sure to share your strategies with others who may need a little boost along the way to a strong recovery.

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Whole Self-Care: Are You Guilty Of Neglect?

I’ve written about the basics of self-care before. (See posts here, and here, and here) I’d like to dig a bit deeper today. Self-care in the media tends to be spas, baths, and face masks. There is much more to it. We need to make sure to care for our whole selves. This means we need to make sure we have our physical, mental, and emotional needs met. Whole self-care can make sure no part is neglected.

Neglecting any of these parts will leave you feeling off, drained, or like something is missing. It can be hard to track down just what is wrong when you are applying self-care, just not covering all the bases.

Whole Self-Care: Are You Guilty Of Neglect?

What type of things do you do for self-care already? Write them all down, in the above categories if you can. Look them over. Do you seem to have a shortage of any category? Is there a larger focus on another?

If you are unsure how to define some of your activities, or just short on actions in one or more groups, check below for ideas:

Physical

  • Daily, enjoyable activity
  • Basic hygiene: shower, wash hair, skin care, etc
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat enough and a variety
  • See doctor as needed
  • Take medication as needed
  • Stay hydrated
  • Hug someone
  • Play with a pet

Mental

  • Have quiet time daily – use it to pray, meditate, or what ever quiets your mind
  • Read
  • Learn something new
  • Cultivate your own hobbies
  • Turn of phone notifications for a time period
  • Talk to a therapist
  • Listen to music
  • Do a craft

Emotional

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Have time out with a friend
  • Go on a date
  • Journal
  • Keep a gratitude list
  • Do extra self-care activities that pamper you: spa days, face masks, flowers for yourself, etc
  • Call a family member or friend to talk
  • Cuddle a pet

Of course this is just a small list of suggestions. There are hundreds of different ways to do self-care, and many can go in more than one category.

I hope you have 3-5 ideas written down under each type now. You don’t want to have too many and get overwhelmed. If you already have a routine for some, it won’t be hard to add a few more though.

Whole Self-Care Plan

Now you are going to want to plan a week. Under each day, make sure you have at least one thing from physical, mental and emotional written down.

For example:

Monday- go on a walk, go to painting class, call mom

Tuesday- dance to music, get coffee with BFF (notice the “dance to music” can cover both physical and mental)

By making sure you have at least one out of each category, you are never going to totally neglect any part of your self-care. When you look over your plan for the week, pay attention to the overall balance. Do you tend to focus more on one area over the others? Is it just one kind of self-care that gets left out? If so, try to add a few more activities from that group into your week.

Overtime, practicing whole self-care, or using a more balanced approach, is sure to make you feel better over all. You will notice it isn’t just the area that was neglected that will improve, but every part of your life will feel more balanced and cared for.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments or feel free to email me at leighbryant@flawedmessylife.com . Also, please join us over at Growing in Self-Acceptance! We are a growing Facebook group forming a community meant to support each other as we grow in our acceptance of ourselves.

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

7 Ways to Overcome Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is not something that can be fixed in “10 Easy Steps” or after reading one life changing article. It is a process, but a process you can approach with fairly simple activities. In my previous post on self-esteem, I covered three activities. For today, I’ve collected seven more ideas on what you can do to overcome low self-esteem.

Unsure if you have low self-esteem? This post may be able to answer that question.

Self-Esteem Boosting Activities

Journal

Take time each day to write down any negative thoughts you have. Getting them down on paper, and out of your head is a good first step to getting past them. Many times, once I write those thoughts down, I can see that either my mind has exaggerated the situation, or it is something easily fixed.

A journal is also a great place to write those compliments that you are working on accepting gracefully. Each night, write down any you received from people, or come up with one for yourself.

Refine your support system

Work on surrounding yourself with people who celebrate your strengths instead of pointing out your weaknesses. You do not have to keep anyone around who tears at your self-worth. Get rid of as many of those people as possible, even if they are family.

I’m not saying you should surround yourself with “yes people”. Constructive criticism is very important, but constant criticism is not something you should have to deal with. If you walk away from an encounter with someone feeling worse about yourself, instead of encouraged or motivated, that is the type of relationship you should feel free to end.

People inspire you, or they drain you - pick them wisely.

Start the day on a positive note

Whether you like to laugh or prefer something inspiring or uplifting, find something that makes you smile in the morning. Start the day smiling, and it will be easier to have a positive outlook with all you do.

You can leave positive quotes around the house on post-it notes, check out funny videos on YouTube, or sign up to have uplifting stories delivered to your email, among other ideas. The options for this are just about unlimited, you just have to search a bit.

Discover and pursue your passions

Write down all of your positive qualities and your interests. Take a look at your lists, and see what stands out. Do you see any patterns or traits that stick out or really fit together?

My enjoyment of writing, desire to help people, and gift of empathy directed me toward blogging, but it took me until I was 37 to discover. Since she was two my daughter has adored baking. She has a real drive for it and always has. My oldest spawn has a talent for drawing. It has been a joy to watch their skill develop over the years. Drawing is something they do for enjoyment, and strive to improve their skills at.

Your passions might jump out at you, or it might take some contemplation. Don’t worry if it takes trying a bunch of new things before you find what you really love. Have fun with the process!

Sooth yourself

Nurture yourself. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would a child. Be sure you get enough sleep, food, etc. Provide comfort for yourself any time you can.

Do the hard stuff too, and spend time adulting so you provide yourself the security you deserve. You may think this sounds like the opposite of “soothing”. I do too, but having all the hard stuff dealt with removes a lot of stress.  Pay the bills, make the doctor appts, etc.

Provide visual cues

Pick some quotes you like, or phrases that click with you, and tape them up where you will see them through the day. These can provide perspective and hopefully curb any negative self-talk you may have.

Your self-esteem is ingrained and it is going to take repetition to change. Don’t just choose what ever positive cliché you run across first. Make sure you choose something that really resonates with you and you agree with.

Redefine failure

Lack of success does not equal failure. You only truly fail if you quit trying. Instead, “failure” can be viewed as learning opportunities, chances to grow, and steps along the way to your goal. None of those things are negative! You don’t need to fear trying something and not being successful right away, if you look at it with this perspective. Many very successful people describe “failure” the same way.

 

"We are all failures - at least the best of us are." J.M. Barrie
Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM was a Scottish novelist and playwright, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan.
"Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success." Robert T. Kiyosaki
Robert T. Kiyosaki is best known as the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad. This is the #1 personal finance book of all time.
"Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I've met people who don't want to try for fear of failing." J.K. Rowling
Joanne Rowling, pen names J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith, is a British novelist, screenwriter and film producer best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series.

Again, these aren’t magic steps or anything. Choosing a few to practice daily can help you start building yourself up though, and that will develop your self-worth. Gradually, you will see yourself overcome low self-esteem.

If you find any of these ideas helpful, please share on your favorite social media site. Thank you for stopping by the blog!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

 

Growing In Self-Acceptance Community for FML

I was made aware that I never “officially” told you about the Facebook group made in connection with the blog. A community where people can support each other as they grow in their understanding of themselves and improve self-esteem together is a dream of mine. That is what I’m hoping Growing in Self-acceptance can be.

Members will get early notification of any new projects I do or any exciting announcements. (They will know second after my email list.) There will also be fun challenges to do together, if you want to participate, and other community building activities.

Exclusive to the group, will be weekly Facebook live sessions where we can do Q&A’s, talk about a recent post, or discuss any number of other subjects as we decide on together. I want to be there for you and share in this learning! These will then be posted to YouTube for re-watching. Only group members will have the opportunity to ask questions live and participate in the discussion as it happens.

This group will be an important part of the Flawed, Messy Life community, and I’d love for you to help me grow it. Once it gets big enough, I’ll need to choose a few admins to help out also.

How to join Growing in Self-Acceptance

Growing In Self-Acceptance

Just click this link to be taken to the group, and request to be added. To be sure you don’t miss out on any bonuses I may send out later, join my email list also. You can find a form to fill out on the side bar, or toward the bottom of the page if you are on mobile.

We are a small group at this point, but we are developing. I believe that if we work through some growing pains we will have an amazing community. I look forward to seeing you there!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.