Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Self-Love

**Note from the author: This is the end of a series I never thought I would be able to conclude properly. When I first began writing LTBV I was at an extremely low and vulnerable part of my life (that was almost a year ago to date). I re-wrote this particular last piece over and over and over again for the past couple of months. I just wasn’t in love with the words enough to post them, and considering this topic it didn’t seem right to publish something I couldn’t stand behind. Never have I felt more exposed with my writing, and never have I have been in love with something I have written more than each topic in this series. Here’s to the readers out there I hope you now feel like you have a shoulder to lean on with the words I have written.

By Traci Taylor
September 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

As summer winds down and my favorite season of the year approaches the feeling of fear overwhelms me instead of the usual joy of anticipation for autumn. This time last year I was in deep with depression, nearing the end of a relationship with a person that was my absolute best friend, and in turn fighting a losing battle with alcohol abuse. It was as if my world was crumbling around me without any real exit strategy for survival. I had hit a rock bottom that I seemingly couldn’t get out of without just throwing in the towel. After my relationship officially ended that second week in October I lost myself in helplessness and made an end all choice that I am grateful now I failed at attempting.

I approached the next day thankful to still be alive and decided it was time to start loving myself instead of loathing myself. Somewhere in that almost tragic wakeup call I became aware that drinking needed to come to a halt and I needed to begin living a healthier, happier lifestyle. I started a new job (left the one that was adding to my misery), got sober from alcohol for 8 months, and began writing this series (Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable) that is finally coming to a conclusion with the topic of “Self-Love”.

Sobriety was far from the easiest thing I have done in my quarter century existence on this planet, but in the same thought one of the most self-rewarding accomplishments. Through abstaining from alcohol I learned the importance of self-love and relearned what genuine happiness feels like. I know I have come a long way over the past year, but the hardest part of it all is being aware that this time of year will stick with me for my lifespan- it just depends on how I choose to fight through it. Everything does happen for a reason, and I believe my existence is proof of that.

Making sure self-love was a part of my everyday routine first started with self-care which meant beginning therapy. The best part of being able to talk to an educated individual who has no prior knowledge of your struggle is how rewarding it feels after the hour is up. I recall a day after one of my sessions where I was walking home and looked up to this gorgeous bundle of trees with leaves of golden browns, yellows, and reds. A sudden smile spread over my face with gratitude that ensured me I still have a long journey ahead of me. It was then that I felt an abundance of love for myself and for all of the life experiences I had yet to accomplish.

When winter started creeping around the corner, life got a tad bumpy again. The new restaurant I had been working at was reaching point of closing and I was weeks away from being unemployed. Needless to say I was beginning to feel that sense of helplessness again. Just when I was as stressed out about life falling apart at the seams, I got luckier than I ever fathomed was possible. Part of me still believes what happened next was one of the reasons I survived that day last October. For every day I chose to not give up on myself, I was about to experience the answer as to why.

As a kid it is hard to believe that everything happens for a reason, and that every difficult task life throws your way is for a better purpose. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones that had a childhood painted with a white picket fence of a happy family or a yellow brick road to success. Like the majority of peers in my generation I got by with finding the strength within myself despite surrounding circumstances. It is simple to ponder the thoughts of the “grass is greener on the other side” but what is more self-satisfying (in my opinion) is being at the top of the hill after the climb when you thought you would never make it from the start. Self-love is about knowing I can get to the top as long as I choose to trust that I am able to. If I have gained one thing thus far in life, it is that reassurance. If I didn’t have that last winter, I wouldn’t have the opportunity that was about to come my way or what I like to refer to as my “top of the hill”.

I had been unemployed (restaurant industry isn’t known for its job security) for over a month and a half after the restaurant I work at closed New Year’s Eve. Constantly applying to jobs, getting interviews, but no real luck until I got the phone call I never thought would come. During my numerous amounts of job applications I decided to randomly apply to a job as a lacrosse goalie coach at a well-known private school in Philadelphia (a sport I once adored and missed dearly). To my surprise I got a call back weeks later, interviewed, and was eventually hired. Transitioning from athlete to coach was quite the obstacle at first, but it is one that I quickly learned to fall in love with. It was the change of perspective on life that I needed, and I believe the opportunity came into my life at that time for a distinct reason. Similar to the reward I get from writing (sharing my voice in hopes of helping others), coaching does that much more by mentoring future leaders through a mutual appreciation for a beloved sport. Being on the other side of the sideline unravels the big picture that the learning process never stops, not even if you are the coach (or teacher).

Each morning I wake up I no longer crave the sunset, but am now appreciative of the pale blues and fiery pinks of the sunrise. I am aware that not every day will be without a struggle, but with every day there is a lesson to learn. The greatest lesson over this past year has been accepting that I am only human, and I am allowed to have faults as long as I remember to love myself regardless. It’s hard to feel a nagging grey cloud of depression surrounding you and still try to believe that you deserve unconditional love. Sometimes, in those moments, your greatest accomplishment may be getting through the day (I’ve been there- it is valid). Just remember it may not get better tomorrow, but it will (I promise) get better at some point. When that day comes you will be so thankful you made it this far. Not a day goes by that I don’t ponder what life would be like had I not made it past that second week in October last year. Everything that I have become so grateful for over these 12 months would not exist. I used to think being a hopeless romantic was believing in finding the end all love, but really the greatest love of all is self-love. Once you have that, everything else will fall into place.

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Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Break-Ups

**Note from the author: I am starting a short story series that will be posted weekly. The topics I will  be writing about are relatable life topics and are all about vulnerability. With this series I will not be holding back and the stories may get intense (that is the point to being vulnerable). My one hope, something I always wish for, is that the readers get the most out of how real these stories will be. Enjoy, and always feel free to reach out- there’s nothing more I enjoy than finding a connection through written word.

By- Traci Taylor
December 2014
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series.

The feeling of a broken heart is perhaps the most intense, short lived, feeling of sadness we endure as human beings. Ultimately there is no way to really describe in one sentence the emotions of a break up, other than saying it is the polar opposite of falling in love.

Everyone will tell you that” in due time you will get through this,” or “they will realize what they lost, it’ll be okay in the end”. Intellectually you are aware of that, but emotionally it seems like a crippling thought. What a lot of people forget when break ups happen is that you are not alone and plenty of people (including yourself) have been in this position before.

This is the time when it is acceptable to be sad and eat your weight in pizza or ice cream. Just keep in mind that it is “OK” to be sad for however long you feel that way. The only thing that needs to stop after a month is the indulgence of massive amounts of food. Try not to lose your health along with the broken heart.

What I will not recommend is drinking your sorrows away. Getting together with friends for a beer or glass of wine is great. Socializing is an important step back to happiness after the end of a relationship.

Alcohol is not the answer to your broken heart, and I say that with experience. For the critics that have a wrinkled brow because of my age, no need to fret, I will explain in the upcoming paragraphs.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was a drunk beginning at age 14. The past couple of months I have abstained from alcohol and it was mainly because of a difficult break up I was going through. A person I had been with for almost a year ended the relationship we were in, and I did not take it well at all. She was my best friend, and despite knowing we weren’t working it really hit me hard.

After she left my apartment and we returned keys I walked right to the liquor store. At this point my alcoholism was already progressing rapidly without the majority of people’s knowledge (also the depression I was internally struggling with). I got to the liquor store with a plan to drink myself into oblivion. Jack Daniels and Black Box were my choices. There were no other options I could see that were logical; I just wanted to be numb from the sadness.

I arrived back to my apartment, but had already taken a swig from the Jack on my walk home. It was still early afternoon at this point, but I just kept the drinks flowing all night long. Thoughts of being alone, and being without her kept racing through my head. I truly couldn’t bear what was going on in my own mind, so I chose to bury it with booze. In that moment, I was hoping I wouldn’t wake up to see the next day.

Then the morning came, and I was disgusted with myself. The drinking didn’t end there. My heart still felt wounded, so I started drinking again except I added a bottle of pills to the mix. I had one thing in mind and I didn’t want to look back.

My plan ended up failing, and a friend near to my heart was concerned with how I was talking to her through text message. Truthfully she had ever right to be concerned. I had let the depression and alcoholism eat away at the person I really was. For me I didn’t see any other option because I felt everything was crumbling around me. Break ups can be tough, especially when you battle with an alcohol addiction added with a dash of depression.

Thankfully my mind was much clearer the following day, I self proclaimed sobriety, and decided to seek out therapy. Break ups have all different ranges of intensity. Unfortunately my latest experience was my rock bottom. I was lucky enough to pull through it, and really change my life around. To this day I have nothing but gratitude for my ex. If she didn’t end our relationship, I probably wouldn’t have gotten my life together.

Of course these things are easier said than done. It took me months, and for most people it can be longer. The important thing to remember during your time of heartache is that it will get better; there is just no guarantee of when. Love is both a cruel and beautiful thing. Having someone that makes you a happier person is the goal, but accepting that the love has dwindled into misery is tough. Every dawn brings a new day. Remember in the darkness of heartache that love will happen again.