Are You a Victim of Gaslighting? My Story + Tips to Protect Yourself:

Are You a Victim of Gaslighting? My Story + Tips to Protect Yourself:

THE GASLIGHTER

Have you ever had a situation that goes something like this: You meet someone and it feels like the stars align. Whether it’s a friendship or it turns romantic, it seems totally meant to be. They’re really nice and seem to be genuinely interested in you. They lavish you with attention and a true relationship begins to blossom. You feel really safe in that moment, which makes what happens next worse.

Down the road when you both have settled in comfortably, things start to change. The person who used to adore and worship you now fluctuates between needing you desperately and devaluing you. They are constantly angry and depressed. They consistently lift themselves up by putting others down. They’re often negative and hard to be around. Instead of engaging with you, they tend to make things about themselves. In fact, they may actually be prone to lies and exaggerations about themselves and others, as a way to make themselves feel better.

Maybe you had ignored some red flags at first, but it can’t be ignored now. When you are convinced that things are turning toxic, you call it off and explain that you’re moving on. However, instead of getting better, this individual’s behavior gets much, much worse!

Now, imagine that instead of going away, this person begins gaslighting you: a form of persistent manipulation meant to ultimately cause you to lose your own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. A gaslighter’s statements and accusations are often based on calculated fiction. They begin by distorting facts, crafting deliberate falsehoods, making up character assassinations towards you, and aggressively asserting negative coercions about you to your friends, family and co-workers. You notice that they send you communication that tries to manipulate the truth by persistent distortion, with the clear intention of causing you, your family, your co-workers and your friends to question and feel less confident in your personality and your decisions.

Now, anything mean that they do to you, this person accuses you of doing to them. Not only are they lying, they are thriving off of the praise gained from being the victim in those lies. They replace factual information with false information. They personally message people who support you, threatening them if they continue to work with or be friends with you. This person begins to attempt to control your personal relationships, friendships and work relationships by constantly inserting themselves into them with made-up drama, lies and persistent manipulation aimed directly at you. They threaten your livelihood. Now we’re not talking being mean or annoying: we’re talking serious criminal harassment.

Now, imagine this goes on for 11 years!

Unfortunately, that’s been my everyday reality. I’ve been a victim of gaslighting for over a decade: since I was 20 years old.

THE VICTIM

If this situation sounds similar to something you have experienced, you may be or may have dated or been friends with a narcissistic gaslighter. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill in their victim’s an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. The techniques used in “Gaslighting” by the narcissist are similar to those used in brainwashing, interrogation, and torture that have been used in psychological warfare by intelligence operative, law enforcement and other forces for decades.

Since 2007, I’ve faced this harrowing reality from one person in particular, as well as their family and close friends. This gaslighting behavior towards me has now been going on for over a third of my life. Never one to want to feel like the victim, I have stayed silent about it publicly for all these years. But I was inspired to share my story with you today. As a woman, as a woman of color and as a woman with a public platform, I NEED to share my story with you today.

Many years ago, I took the drastic step to move across the country and get as far away from my gaslighter as possible. In retaliation, they moved across state lines, close to where I had lived (a classic form of stalking) and even reached out to people in my new town, as well as my old, befriending them to turn them against me. While I’ve chosen to completely ignore them, over many years my gaslighter has gone through great lengths to threaten me both personally and professionally, including making death threats to my life. I have done everything one does in this situation (and have outlined them all below so you have them handy), but after going on for over a decade, it’s never really stopped.

Remember that many of the people that are on the receiving end of rampant gaslighting are harassed each and every day, because their abuser is in pain each and every day, and takes their pain out on their intended victim with their manipulative behavior.

To the harassed, it’s not “a one time thing”, like some forms of cyber-bullying. It’s yet another example that a person will say terrible, untrue things to get their way – over a very long period of time. It’s one more scary email in your inbox, it’s another day you’re hearing false allegations, it’s another letter you’re forced to have sent from your lawyer, it’s another time that person is slinging slurs or death threats in your direction. So to speak up, we leave ourselves open to being attacked.

But how long should a person endure that kind of punishment simply for daring to exist? 

THE LARGEST LESSON

In today’s society, articles like this are a long time coming, and I think my only mistake was not speaking out sooner, especially in a positive way.

When this happens to you, it’s frightening. You’ve done nothing to deserve it, and yet your gaslighter will come up with all kinds of reasons why they feel you do. That, alone, will drive anyone nuts. Too many times I felt like I had no where to turn: even movies or dateline-like episodes I had seen on the subject of gaslighting situations often didn’t compare to what I was facing on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis. And none of them ended well.

I’ve come to learn I’m not alone. I’ve come to learn that we think we know how we’d handle a situation like this, but often we have absolutely no idea. If you’ve been there, and frozen, I get it. While normally I am assertive, quick-witted and valiant about the truth, at times during my ordeal with this form of harassment, I have been so taken aback by how many manipulations are going on at once, that there were many years I wasn’t able to respond to it at all. When an attack happened – and they happened often – I would completely shut down.

I’ve come to learn that this is normal. In fact, wrapped in this culture of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, I think it’s hard for a lot of people to figure out how to react to this kind of reality; one that is rooted in lies. It’s head-spinning – and emotionally draining. Remember, the entire point of gaslighting is to throw so many lies, distortions and half-truths out at once that the victim (that’s you) becomes so confused that they are paralyzed. This is exactly what happened to me. If you find that it happens to you, it’s totally normal, so don’t worry. Most people have no past experience with this type of behavior, which has now become so prevalent in society.

It’s exhausting to fight a gaslighter, and when it goes on for so long, you become despondent that there will be any kind of support if you ever DO speak out. It’s easy for the public at large to dismiss cyber-stalking as “just trolling,” as “cat-fights,” as something clearly less dangerous than the “real thing”—even when perpetrators move to extort, dig up personal details and deluge victims with explicit threats. Hey, don’t feed the trolls, ladies! Calm down, that’s just the internet!

But it’s not “just” the internet. For a lot of us, the internet has become the primary mode of remote communication and our sole business platform. It threatens your emotional health. It fights your ability to practice self-care. It inhibits your ability to exist normally. This isn’t just the internet; it’s your life. And it’s not one or two people saying something snarky about you on the internet. These are malicious, untrue, systematic, hateful attacks from someone that the victims often knows or knew personally. This is real life.

The idea that threatening messages should somehow be less alarming, less dangerous, and less worthy of investigation than threatening phone calls or harassment in the workplace (when the internet is now most of our workplaces) undermines the magnitude of what online harassment truly does and what women, in particular, go through every single day – just to check their emails.

After a while you need to choose: am I going to spend my whole life defending myself against this person or will I speak out?

WHAT GASLIGHTING LOOKS LIKE:

The term Gaslight comes from the Academy Award winning 1944 film by the same name, in which a man systematically sets out to drive his wife crazy by making her doubt the reality of her own perceptions. If you’ve ever dealt with a narcissist, there is a good chance you have experienced “Gaslighting” for yourself. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in which the one doing it tries to get power over his or her victim by making them think they are crazy, out of sorts and “off.”

The gaslighter lies to, manipulates and questions the other person and the people around them, mostly for control, but sometimes to hide or distract from something about themselves they don’t want others to discover. Even though individual situations might give manipulators different platforms on which to work, these are good examples of what gaslighting sounds and looks like:

  • When they begin rerouting conversations to something you did “wrong.”
  • Turning from very invested and friendly to heartless and cold over time.
  • Subtly sabotaging your work (e.g., unscheduling things, starting rumors, “misplacing” files, manipulating your coworkers, friends or classmates).
  • Gossiping about you.
  • Reacting badly when you don’t accept their version of the truth.
  • Acting out of revenge.
  • Highly aggressive when criticized.
  • Twist and turn the truth and make such long and complicated arguments to prove their points that after a while you become thoroughly confused.
  • Excluding you.
  • Finding fault with your personality or accusing you of being paranoid, stressed, etc., when you make a complaint against their behavior.
  • Devaluing you.
  • Spreading malicious lies or rumors about you.
  • Becoming fixated on you in an unhealthy, obsessive way.
  • Constantly telling you “who you are” and what you “should” do or feel while invalidating what you’re experiencing.
  • Convincing you to doubt all evidence that shows them in a bad light.
  • Excluding others for being close to you.
  • Doubling or tripling down on their false accusations or coercions, to intimidate or oppress your truth.

FACTS TO REMEMBER:

Remember, their behavior is not about you.

Bullies are not just for the school playground and no matter their age, people who project hate are always struggling with inner battles of their own. When you are at peace, you feel no need to spread negativity. You don’t care what happened 5 years or even 5 minutes ago. When you’re genuinely happy, doing things you truly love, there is no room for negative thoughts or hateful feelings towards others. When you are struggling, you judge. When you are not struggling, life is positive, solution-based and soaked in love.

Never forget that when someone judges you, it isn’t actually about you at all. It’s about them and their own insecurities, limitations, and needs. People who are the most difficult to please are always the people least worth pleasing. They’re also the people that will never be happy no matter what you do. They create the least and risk nothing. Because they are focused solely on being the victim, they rarely give themselves a chance to bring anything of worth into the world.

HOW TO STOP THE ABUSE:

If you have this horrific situation in your life, here is what you can do to help yourself and end the abuse. The techniques you use to combat harassment, bullying and gaslighting might need adjustment depending on the person and situation you’re dealing with, but these tactics are a good starting point:

  • Tune in to your gut. That nervous, uncomfortable feeling bullying causes isn’t your imagination. It’s a warning from your brain, which senses danger on the basis of previous emotional experiences and memories. Pay attention to who makes you confused, anxious or depressed and when.
  • DON’T retaliate, even if they are baiting you to or lying to others that you already are retaliating! Don’t do it. It doesn’t feel good. You lose a little bit of your soul every time you spend your precious time trying to put others down. It doesn’t work to stoop to their level because every time you type or say something cruel to or about someone, you do more damage to yourself than them. Not only that, you may validate some of their manipulations by trying to get back at them.
  • Do not engage with the person. Do not ask other people to engage with him or her either.
  • Block the person on all social media the moment you feel you’re being harassed. Block their number. Remove the opportunity for people to easily continue to harass you on your platforms.
  • On twitter considering using The Block Bot, which is a service that allows individuals to add people to a shared block list for generalized abuse. If someone says something aggressively sexist, cissexist, transphobic, or otherwise to someone on the network and they add the person to The Block Bot, the person will also be blocked for me. It’s a sort of pre-emptive strike against harassers.
  • Tell your close friends and relatives what’s going on. Get witnesses to the abuser’s behavior. Document document document all you can. Screengrab immediately. If things are recorded or in writing, they’re harder for the other person to manipulate, and you’ll have a reference to trust even if they try.
  • Change your number if they will not stop.
  • Find supportive people to talk to and get perspective.
  • Talk to a therapist and close friends. Explain what your harassment and gaslighting is and why you believe it is happening to you.
  • If the individual is spreading lies about you publicly, threatens you or begins committing online harassment, contact a lawyer. If you cannot afford an attorney, look into domestic violence groups near you. Literally just google “your town + abuse help.” They can often guide you to low cost or free legal advice. There are 24/7 hotlines for emotional abuse in every state.
  • Choose when you will speak up about your ordeal. Don’t let them silence you, but don’t let it consume your life, either. Often this person just wants attention, so be careful with your energy.
  • If the individual threatens your life, call the police IMMEDIATELY.  911, stat. These individuals sometimes see other people as “sub-human” and it is not beyond them to take drastic measures to hurt others in order to get their way.

If you need support because you are a victim of gaslighting, bullying or harassment, Bullies Reality is an amazing organization that supports victims. They work to educate kids and teens in schools and on social media providing help for those in need and at risk of suicide.

There is a strong link between bullying and suicide, as suggested by recent bullying-related suicides in the US and other countries. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10 to 34 year olds. Parents, teachers, and students learn the dangers of bullying and help students who may be at risk of committing suicide.

As you may know, I lost my best friend to suicide in 2011, so this cause is especially dear to my heart. Bullies Reality is 30 million people strong. They help teach families of the bullied child and the child who is bullying by offering effective solutions on how to respond to all forms of bullying and join the BR Family. They reached out to me and have been so supportive to me. Bullies Reality has been truly understanding of my ordeal, and so we wanted to partner to bring this larger message to you. You are not alone. Bullying and harassment happens and it’s NOT your fault. This amazing organization works with schools worldwide by creating new programs and policies for both the bully and the kids who are being bullied.

I truly love Bullies Reality so much. I am glad that this problem is getting the attention and resources that it truly deserves so that we can end this devastating, rising issue and stop the suicide count.

And when you may feel the most helpless, send good thoughts to anyone who is hurting enough to hurt others: those are the people who need healing the most. I know it may be difficult, especially with so much hate in the world, but I promise you that this is the only way to not swallow the poison arrow. Remember that actions speak louder than words.

Keep making good, positive contributions to the world. Trust me, people notice.

You may also like My Chat with Teen Vogue and 7 Steps to Rid Yourself of Toxic People.

5 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety Naturally

5 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety Naturally

Some of the most powerful tools to create happiness and diminish anxiety are right at our fingertips: we were just never taught them.

It’s like this: turn the radio to 101.5 and you might hear country. Turn it to 101.9 and you might hear Rap. If you never turn the radio dial, you may think the radio only plays country. Other radio waves might be in the air, but we need to be tuned into them to hear the correct frequency.

In this case, the frequency is your peace of mind. If we experience stress or anxiety and we never tune into other ways of thinking and living, we’ll always be stuck on the same station. When we feel stuck this way, we find ourselves having the same experiences and creating the same situations for ourselves. This contributes to and feeds our feelings of anxiety on a seemingly endless loop.

There are simple ways to break out of the stressed or panicked frequency we’re used to, and tune into a manageable, stress-free life. Here’s how:

Mindfulness – Mindfulness is the basis for thought-reformation, or the ability to re-route your thinking. When we’re mindful, we slow down. We take time to appreciate all the beauty around us. We feel grateful for the moment, in the moment – and far beyond. If we practice mindfulness from moment-to-moment, we’ll tap into the different ways to use this attentiveness when we face difficult or stressful situations. This will provide clear and present instructions – immediately – about how to tackle things that might otherwise make us panic.

Meditation – A small meditation practice involves just sitting still and closing your eyes. Focus on your breath. Take one breath in through your nose and fill your belly with air. Release the air through your mouth. Repeat. Then, picture a blank stage. Onto this stage comes the best, most loving, stress-free, healthiest version of yourself. Hold the image of that person in your mind. Maybe it matches up to who you are today – maybe you have a little work to do. Think back, in your mind, to what it took for the Best version of you to become that person. Maybe you switched your diet. Maybe you have a different job. Maybe you started exercising every day. Once you figure out what it would take for you to become that person, write it down. When you have a list of goals, try them, one by one. These are powerful ways we can take our control back and become exactly who we picture ourselves to be in our mind. When we have this control, our anxiety naturally melts away.

GABA – Many people find that GABA is the perfect remedy for their anxiety issues, because it tends to naturally slow down the way your neurons fire while regulating brain activity. Without enough GABA, your neurons may be trigger-happy: firing too often and too easily. Those with severe anxiety have been shown to have lower levels of GABA than normal.

Supplements – While Rx medication is the most common method of treating anxiety used in the Western world today, it’s not necessarily the most effective. Each pill comes with dangerous side effects, like depression, increased anxiety, allergies and even risk of overdose or death. If I told you there was a natural alternative to valium that wasn’t addictive, would you believe me? Well, there is! It’s called Valerian, a powerful and effective herb that can calm nerves, relieve tension and help you manage stress. Valerian creates a greater sense of well-being. It can be taken as a tea or tincture, and is great for relieving sore muscles as well.

Magnesium –  Magnesium is a natural mineral used to relieve anxiety and calm the nerves. It regulates your nervous system to prevent stress, anxiety, fear, nervousness and restlessness. Stress has been proven to cause magnesium deficiency, and that lack of magnesium then amplifies the stressful feelings you’re already having. With less than 30% of adults consuming the recommended amount of magnesium, many scientist believe that we may be giving ourselves cultural mass-anxiety by not supplementing. You can take magnesium in supplement or powder form, adding it to your drinks and baths.  This is the magnesium I recommend in powder or capsule form (here).

Three Proven Ways To Calm Your Mind

Three Proven Ways To Calm Your Mind

Racing thoughts. Nagging worry. Weekly work drama.

Many of us live with a level of persistent low-grade stress that becomes so normalized that most of the time, we don’t even realize that it’s there.

While we might not be displaying obvious signs of stress, cortisol – the hormone associated with stress – underhandedly wreaks havoc on our mental and physical health over the long-term. Therefore it’s important to make time to clear our minds and bring some peace into our lives, even if we’re not feeling particularly anxious.

Here are some of the best – and most scientifically backed – ways I’ve found to bring my mind back to center:

Make Time To Meditate

Meditation has a number of positive effects on mind and body. It’s also deceptively hard, which is why many people try it once or twice but struggle to make it a regular habit. Meditation helps combat the physical and emotional affects of stress and has lasting benefits that affect your productivity, as well as your ability to relax under pressure. Set aside time to meditate for just 10 minutes a day over the next week or two and experience the benefits for yourself. 

Here is one of my favorite personal meditations, taken from my book Cured by Nature:

THE CONNECTION MEDITATION:

Sit up straight in your chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground.

Wipe your mind clean and start over. Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your abdomen.

Breathe In and feel where your air flows in your body. Is it just your lungs or does it fill your stomach, your abdomen or other parts of your body?

Breathe Out: I am connected.

Breathe In and focus on smoothing your breath.

Breathe Out: I am connected.

Continue to focus on your breath. Anytime your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath. When you are ready, open your eyes with a smile and greet your day.

Research determined that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the brain’s default mode network (DMN). The DMN is responsible for the “monkey mind” chatter, mind-wandering, and self-referential thoughts.

Walk It Out

If you follow along with me on instagram, you know a daily walk with my pups is a non-negotiatble. While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins (which, in turn, reduces stress hormones), consider walking in a park or other green space, or taking a short hike, which can actually put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.

Visualize To Manifest

A short visualization is an easy way to get back to center. Much of our worry stems from feeling a lack of control. Even the National Institutes for Health recognizes the power of “guided imagery” to elicit a relaxation response.

Simply make yourself comfortable and then picture a peaceful scene: a future vacation, your favorite beach. You can even visualize yourself accomplishing a future goal or picture yourself in in your dream home next to the man or woman of your choice (yup. anyone! Have fun!) These are some of my favorite mind-strengthening techniques to do because they truly WORK.

BONUS: Hang Up, Then Detox

Cell phones stress you out, there’s no question about it. Talking on your cell can even raise your blood pressure. If you recognize that social media, emails or your phone in general is stressing you out, put it down for the day and walk away. If you’re feeling a bit of phantom limb syndrome, read a book, take a walk or spend quality time with loved ones cooking, organizing, decorating or doing something you’ve been putting off. When you say you’re out – be OUT. Be present. At the end, I highly doubt you’ll remember the texts you got, but your loved ones smiles and laughs will be at the top of your most precious moments.

For weekends, you can also give yourself a curfew of when you’ll begin looking at your phone in the morning and what time you stop at night (for instance, 11:30 am – 3:30 pm). This will help you manage your time and open up tons of time to work on yourself and projects that are important to you as well!

Hat | Dress: Sustainably designed and ethically produced COSSAC  similar (if COSSAC dress is sold out) | Necklace

Photos by Arielle Levy

Why Cannabis Works

Why Cannabis Works

Today, a PubMed search for scientific journal articles published in the last 20 years containing the word “cannabis” will reveal 16,614 results. Add the word “cannabinoid,” and the results increase to 22,122 articles.

That’s an average of more than two scientific publications per day over the last 20 years! 

Have you ever wondered how one little plant can help treat so many conditions — each one vastly different from the next?

The search to answer these questions has led scientists to the discovery of a previously unknown physiologic system, a central component of the health and healing of every human and almost every animal: the endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a little known network of receptors and compounds that’s found in every mammal and maintains the body’s equilibrium — regulating things like sleep, pain, appetite, immune function, reproduction, neurogenesis, and stress.

Think of it like a series of locks and keys throughout your body. The locks (or internal receptors) are everywhere, waiting for their keys (or cannabinoids) to come along.

The key might arrive in the form of an endocannabinoid, produced naturally by the body. On the other hand, it might arrive as a phytocannabinoid (THC or CBD) found naturally in cannabis. Endo- and phytocannabinoids actually stimulate the body in the same way.

While cannabis has been used for thousands of years, scientists only disovered the endocannabinoid system in 1992. This marked the first time we understood why cannabis works. Many studies since their discovery have shown that endocannabinoid’s are found throughout your entire system and they play a role in the optimum function of many daily activities our bodies usually struggle with.

Appetite, depression, social behavior, reproduction, sleep, immune function, stress receptors, anxiety and our stress response are all positively affected by endocannabinoids. 

Historical records from ancient China and Greece suggest that preparations of Cannabis Indica were commonly prescribed to fight multiple sclerosis-like symptoms such as tremors and muscle pain. Modern research has confirmed these effects in a study on diseased mice, wherein studies showed impressive relieving effects on tremor and spasticity.

Jeffrey Egler, MD, of Parsley Health in Los Angeles says about cannabis, “It’s good science. The numerous benefits have been demonstrated and well-documented for years, if not decades… There are much cleaner products than others, as well as cleaner ways of dosing cannabis.”

Thanks to these advancements, today the plant remains a safe and effective tool to help treat anything from insomnia to anxiety and epilepsy to PTSD.

Oh the human body. What a trove of hidden treasure.

MY FAVORITE CANNABIS PRODUCTS:

  • Cannabis Essential Oil (a soothing blend for the skin, muscles and all types of massage. It is also supportive of mild skin conditions.)
  • Hemp Extract Gummies (Manage inflammation and pain relief naturally)
  • CBD Rich Hemp Oil (for pain management)
  • Organic Hemp Oil (for cooking + skin oil)
  • Hemp Seeds (Contains more protein and omegas and less carbs than the same serving of Chia or Flax)
  • Natural Hemp Cord (for candle making and household needs)
  • CALM NOW Stress Support Supplement (Herbal Blend Crafted To Keep Busy Minds Relaxed, Focused & Positive; Supports Serotonin Increase)
  • EndoCanna Care Extract (Ideal for managing inflammation, pain, stress & anxiety through naturally occurring phytonutrients found in this all-natural hemp extract.)
  • CBD Caragold (a natural, water-based personal lubricant infused with the powerful healing ingredients of organic CBD oil.)

12 Things I’ve Learned About Grief

12 Things I’ve Learned About Grief

 

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This past year has been undoubtedly the one where all the pieces and experiences in my life have finally begun to come together coherently, and it’s also been one of my hardest without my hero. Yesterday made it officially one year since my Dad passed away.  The shock of his death, the anger immediately after the loss, the incredible pain of moving on every morning without him were some of my most difficult days.

I’m the one with the super-fro with my fingers in my mouth.  🙂

Then, just a few months later, another loss: my good friend Heather succumb to lyme disease after an intense, decades long battle. Not because it had finally ravaged her body, but because she decided that the best conclusion to her life was to walk in front of a train one night to end her pain.

The day I showed Heather around the Getty Museum in LA.

It cracked my heart open all over again. It drained me completely, and left me back in that bewildered fog I had just pulled myself out of. I’ve read a lot in loss literature about “What to expect” from grief, but the truth is, our experiences are all completely different.  Our losses are different.  Our moment to moment feelings are different. So, instead of telling you what to expect – because I can’t – or telling you what I wish someone would have told me – because I heard it all and that really never made a dent – I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about grieving this past year. From my heart, to yours…

Take care of yourself – Putting yourself first is very important, especially in times of loss.  If you haven’t figured this out by the time you lose someone you love, it can be a great time to start. Eat healthy, do some yoga, work out, get out of the house. Your loved one might be gone, but you’re still here, so make the most of it.

Get Grateful – This was one of the things I posted about when I first spoke about living my medicine a few months after Dad passed, and it’s only been more solidified for me. Appreciation will get you through just about anything. Stop to feel your departed loved ones presence with you. Smell the roses. Watch the sunsets. You won’t regret it.

Get Lively – Not Lonely – Don’t shut people out. One of the first things I did after a few days of phone-off, bed-ridden grief was to reach out to my dear friends and loved ones – many of whom I had no idea had experienced similar losses to mine! This is where I found a lot of my comfort and coping mechanisms.

There’s No Such Thing As Prepared – Did I know my Daddy was dying from cancer for 2 and a half years? Yup. Did anything prepare me for the emotional toll it took to help him in his last few months? Did anything prepare me for actually being there, watching him suffer, struggle and ultimately let go? No. Nothing could have. No matter who or what it is, nothing can ever really full prepare you for the shock to your body that comes with grief. So however you find yourself going through it, go. Go whole heartedly and with reckless abandon. Because no one could have told you about how this felt even if they tried (which they may have!)

A Distraction Is a Distraction – …. Is a distraction is a distraction. It doesn’t matter what name you call it, distracting or otherwise suppressing your grief is not helping you and certainly doesn’t help anyone around you. This tends to make us bitter and manifests itself as disease. Cry if you need to cry. Scream if you need to scream. But the sooner you face it, the sooner you can begin to heal.

When does this thing end? – I thought feeling grief was something I’d “get over”.  Turns out, it doesn’t end.  I’ve lost a lot of friends, in fact, so I thought I knew what to be prepared for. Uh, no. Losing a parent was an entirely different experience for me. It wasn’t long before I realized that the emptiness from losing my Dad was going to be there – FOREVER. And P.S. It’s going to get re-triggered every.single.time I lose someone else. But instead of getting panicked about it, I got grateful. I made it my mission to begin to do things not only for myself, but as a legacy to Dad.  In this way, I feel I’ve accomplished more in the last year – emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically – than I feel I did for the 27 years he was with us.  It’s given me an opportunity to grow, expand, learn and get better in a way I just never would have otherwise.

Don’t Stop Working – Pushing the pain away is, at the most, a temporary option.  If you need a break, take one, but taking too much time off can lead to a depressive, loaf-tastic episode or worse, losing your job. But really, in the bigger sense, don’t stop working on yourself. Don’t let death take your life away. Keep smiling, keep laughing, and remember: the world is still spinning. I have worked more, harder and better on myself in the last year than I have ever before in my life. This is, for sure, a positive result of losing my Dad.

It’s natural – 5 Stages? I wish. Throw those notions about what grief is “supposed” to look like out the window. Grief is messy and confusing and comes and goes in waves and roller coaster rides. One of the most powerful things I learned is that grief is a completely natural response to losing a loved one. Your brain actually has to process what is not which is much harder to process than what is. We grieve because we loved, and the loss of love is very hard. Grief is a feeling in the process of moving onto a place of healing, but it’s not the whole process.

Comfort is everywhere – and it comes from very unexpected places. The first person who ever said something super comforting to me about my Dad was a stranger making a passing comment to me on the streets of NYC the day after the funeral. He had no idea what I was going through, but he said exactly what I needed to hear. Often times when we expect certain comfort from our friends or loved ones, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. This is often the time when friends and family will show their true colors, so be prepared. It’s sometimes necessary to seek out ways to grieve on your own. I’ve created meditation practices and little rituals for myself, for instance, that I do every day and especially on hard days. I also started taking (and making!) tinctures for myself specifically targeted for grief and shock, like 21 Drops Carry On blend and Dr. Bach’s Star of Bethlehem.

Focus on the big picture – Admittedly I still get peeved when people use the word ‘ grief’ haphazardly, or in relation to a breakup or the end of a friendship. I know, I know. I’m working on it. Grief is a powerful, unique, personal experience and it means something different to everyone. I’ve learned to also be careful with my own words and language. I’ve been very up on my NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). I don’t use phrases like ‘ I hate.’ Or ‘ I can’t.’; instead I’m focused on making my words meaningful and most importantly, empowering. This keeps my thoughts empowering and keeps me moving on. Getting stuck on the little things – like ‘trigger words’, sad songs, or whatever is holding us back – can be caught and changed immediately. I’d say I’ve gone from JV to Pro at this in the last 12 months. Ain’t nobody got time for tiny pet peeves.

All in good time – It wasn’t until last week that I even touched the photo album I have with all my Dad’s photos in it. It took me about 6 weeks after the funeral to listen to all my Dad’s voicemails. I immediately recorded them to have forever, but I’ve barely heard them since. It goes in reverse, and they span over the 2 years he was sick, so Dad goes from sounding young and healthy to sick and dying as you listen, which makes it creepy and also incredibly real for me. The point is, there’s no ‘ right time’ to look back, remember, or cherish memories you had with your deceased loved one. Do it when it doesn’t hurt you. I can look at the photo album of my Dad now and smile, laugh, and tell stories and jokes. It took me almost a year, but it feels incredibly rewarding. You’ll never forget them, but you don’t have to flood yourself with tough memories to ‘ get over it’.

It’s your experience – I know I harp on having a PMA (positive mental attitude) a lot, but for me there’s no other choice because it has shown such massive results in my life to keep my head and chin up, even when I am feeling down. Even if I am “tricking” my body into feeling better, the ultimate result is more love, light and miracles in my life, so that doesn’t feel very deceptive to me. I can say that, even through the loss of my friends, or my Dad, I’ve been happy. There is a saying, “ Don’t let a bad phone call give you a bad day.” For instance, you may speak with someone who puts you in a negative mood for a moment, but that doesn’t have to put you in a bad mood for the next day or the next week! This is your experience and yours completely. Life rarely hands us things like that, so make the most of it and make it empowering for your life. Think of the good times, laugh through the bad times, forgive yourself, let yourself have some inspiring a-ha moments, and then relax. There is nothing more you could have done or said.  Whether you write about your experience, give back to a cause in their name, or somehow share your experience in an empowering way, make the most of what you’re going through.  What feels like the end of something if often a new beginning.  When one door closes, sometimes a whole other house is built, just waiting for you to stop by and make a home.    

Finally, a helpful meditation for those of you who are grieving a loss:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uin2q_hEHlU&w=560&h=315]

With Love,

Tara

There's Nothing You Can't Do…

There's Nothing You Can't Do…

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New York City.  The city I was born and grew up in for my whole life until just a few years ago!  It will always have a special place in my heart.  Heck, even after I moved to LA, I was traveling to NYC just about every 4-6 weeks for the next 3 years!  I’d call that homesickness.  And can you blame me?  New York City is bustling and beautiful.  The history, the culture, the people, and the fact that I knew every shortcut, back alley and subway route like the back of my hand didn’t hurt either.  They say, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

I barely made it there.  Between paying $1,000/month to live in places you could barely call closets, to upping my meds every single Winter because of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it’s super-annoying side effects, like lethargy, melancholy, and just plain having your epic plans constantly fall through.  No, I spent a lot of time dreaming of the sunshine coast, chasing sunbeams for the 15 minutes a day they’d peek through the clouds on grey NYC days, waiting for the days when my plans didn’t quite have to be made around the weather.

In the interim between finding my house in LA and moving from New York, I had to face a few awkward months and “make it work”.  So, how can you make it work, even if you’re sad, disappointed, lonely, shut in, or just plain feeling down this Winter?

Eat Wisely

Many of us turn to food for comfort during winter months, and end up packing on the pounds out of boredom, discontent or lack of awareness about what we’re consuming.  You’re going to eat more naturally during months when you’re cold, so do it wisely.  Eat foods that boost your mood and get you motivated.  This means: avoid carbs, sugar, and caffeine!  Try nuts, fruit, honey, teas and tinctures for upping your Serotonin and feeling motivated even on crappy days.  Protein (like salmon) should be eaten 3 times a week, with four cups of bright colored veggies (like peppers or kale) are optimal for health.

Move

Lethargy always kicks in for me when I feel trapped and stagnant.  Movement is the cure for this.  Even if the snow is piled up, doing something as simple as breaking out your yoga mat or going up and down your stairs a few dozen times gets your blood moving, and improves your cardiac and adrenal health!  This helps you to combat stress, anxiety and depression as well.

Herbs

The more herbs during winter months – the better!  As long as they’re the right ones!  Supplements like 5-HTP and St. John’s Wort can have a make it or break it affect on our moods!  These are often the difference between me being in a foul mood and days when things seem more manageable.

Light

Surrounding yourself with as much natural light as possible is a great way to combat sadness or depression during the winter months.  My favorite way to do this is candles – lots and lots of candles!  Soy candles and beeswax are my favorite, like this one from Delizioso Skincare.  Another favorite are himalayan salt lamps, which are purifying and calming.

Remember, it’s your life!  It’s where dreams are made of: there’s nothing you can’t do. 🙂

NYC Tee: Life Clothing Co. (follow @lifeclothingco)

Long Necklace: Beth Kaya (follow @bethkaya )

Mala Bracelet: Padma Design  (follow @padmadesign )

Gold Bracelet & Short NecklaceShashi NYC (follow @shashinyc)

Earrings & Rings: Leslie Francesca ( follow @lesliefrancesca )

Lipstick: Nudus in Dirty Diana (follow @nudusaustralia)

Flash Tattoo: Tattify (get 30% off with coupon code ORGANICLIFE)

Photographer: Alina Mendoza (follow @alinamendoza )

With Love,

Tara