Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Getting Personal! // Books, Movies and Songs That Ease Anxiety

Lovely blog readers! I know you're there somewhere. I can see how many people read my posts after I publish them, so I do know people read what I post. And I thank you for that!

It's been almost 5 years since I started this blog (jeez, 5 years) and the things I've written about have varied widely over the years. It used to be solely about TV, and most of that was me babbling on about the daytime soap I watch, The Young and the Restless, which I eventually stopped writing about after about 2 years because I just didn't think I had much more to say there. In 2016, after being at a loss of inspiration of what to post on here, I started writing reviews of books I read and I feel like that was one of the best decisions I've ever made blog-wise, because I have much more articulate and passionate feelings towards books and the written word more than pretty much anything else. You might have also noticed that, more recently, I've introduced music to the blog, with reviews of new albums and playlists of songs, as well as some more ambitious opinion pieces over the last few months. Those posts were things I wrote for The Kelly Alexander Show, which is a podcast and entertainment show/website where I have done social media work since 2015 and have since started blogging for their site, so it has led me to have a vehicle and outlet to share my sometimes bold opinions with a perhaps wider audience. I hope you have enjoyed those posts, and that you check out KAS (we also have an email newsletter that I created and write and I would love for you to subscribe to it; it is a monthly newsletter, no strings attached, just with updates of the goings-on at The Kelly Alexander Show, including my blog posts.)

As much as I enjoy having this blog as a place to talk about the things I love and share them with whomever chooses to read them, Living on Guilty Pleasures (and its previous name and URL, which I believe was Teevee Wizard; feel free to cringe, I was young) has never been a place where I have written about me and my life; it has been about my life in regard to the things I love, which are books, music, TV and movies. But sometimes it's nice to have a place to just to share things about your life in general, too, so I thought I would share a bit of the journey and struggle I've been on with anxiety. I began therapy with a psychologist about 2 years ago, which is when I really felt my anxiety was something I could no longer control or manage by myself. I know now that I have always been an anxious person; I recognize traits and behaviors from when I was young that I realize now are aspects of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I was a kid whose was soon reassured by an adult, and I never felt the need to address those feelings further. Once I grew older and became an adult myself, I realized that it was going to become harder and it has since hit me like a tidal wave. Having anxiety is an ongoing process; some days are good, some days are bad and you can't always explain why, and that is okay. I'm not on medication for anxiety or OCD and I recognize that there are people who actually require medication whereas I do not, so I acknowledge that others have it much worse than me, but it's also important to acknowledge that my struggles with anxiety are no less valid or worth addressing than those who require medication. This winter, I started university for the first time (as a major in English literature; told you I liked books) and while I had been in therapy for a year and a half prior, it has been very triggering for me anxiety-wise. I realize that I would never had been able to cope now if I hadn't started therapy almost 2 years ago, but I've also realized in the last year how much of an ongoing process anxiety is and that in itself is an obstacle, one that can be overcome with time. The semester is almost done now; I have one more exam before I'm finished and I can already feel the pressure lifting, and can also recognize better what I was feeling the last few months.

You may notice I have shared my love for an album by Kesha called Rainbow in various blog posts over the last few months; I named it the best pop album of 2017. This album means a lot to me in general but especially in terms of anxiety; songs like "Learn to Let Go" and "Rainbow" are now some of my all-time favorites. And whenever things get really bad and I don't know how to bring myself to go on, I always think back to what Kesha says in the song "Rainbow" about forgetting how to daydream, still being a child deep down, realizing in the dark that life is too short, and not being able to lose hope even when she really wanted to. One part goes:

And I know that I'm still fucked up
But aren't we all, my love? 
Darling, our scars make us who we are, are
So when the winds are howling strong
And you think you can't go on, hold tight, sweetheart
You'll find a rainbow, rainbow, baby 
Trust me, I know life is scary
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and play along with me tonight
You gotta learn to let go, put the past behind you
Trust me, I know, the ghosts will try to find you
But just put those colors on, girl

Come and paint the world with me tonight

Even before I started university and another chapter of my anxiety was upon me, this song still spoke to me in huge ways just in terms of anxiety in general, and also in regards to coming to terms with adulthood. I think university has emphasized just another stage of adulthood for me and sometimes I just feel like a child in an adult costume who's bound to fail. But then I listen to Kesha telling me that I'll find a rainbow (and I have, and I know I'll find more), that trust me, she knows life is scary, but just put those colors on and try the best you can. It sounds cheesy, but when something like anxiety takes everything from you some days, you have to find something to cling to. The one movie that always manages to make me feel better when I'm feeling crazy or like a failure is Girl, Interrupted. It's about girls in a mental institution in the 1960s and it deals with some themes that feel so close to my relationship with anxiety and adulthood that I can almost touch them. If you're looking for a good movie to understand you, I recommend Girl, Interrupted. I once saw it on a BuzzFeed list of movies that are good when you "want to escape the real world" (I'd already fallen in love with it by that point) and the person who submitted that movie wrote something to the effect of, "Sometimes you just have to cry things out." And that is the perfect description for it.

My issues with anxiety and lack of free time this winter also prevented me from reviewing some books I'd read; some I enjoyed, others I didn't. I felt like I was looking for a book to draw me out of my anxiety and make me feel better (which I do all the time) and normally I find one, or one finds me, and it works. For example, 2 years ago, a few months before I surrendered and started seeing a psychologist, I read Wildflower by Drew Barrymore. Last summer, during a time where every day I felt overwhelmed and wanted to cry, I read A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn. I don't know what it is about memoirs or real-life story collections by celebrities, but they always manage to make me feel better when I'm in a particularly rough time with anxiety. Wildflower was so calmly to me while I read it, and I actually just started rereading it last night, in hopes of it bringing me some of the same comfort it brought me the first time around. A Lotus Grows in the Mud was so sweet and genuine and I recommend both books. This time around with anxiety, however, I never really found a book that drew me out of my issues and made me feel better, which can also be the universe yelling, "HEY! Maybe look inside yourself and figure out what's going on instead of trying to find a book to ease your mind?" I know it's good to allow yourself an escape, but when you can't find one, you just have to ask yourself what's going on. And it's so HARD, universe, stop yelling at me! There was one book I read, when things were pretty bad, that didn't exactly ease my mind but more was just a really damn good book: A List of Cages by Robin Roe. I can't remember the last time I read a book so gripping, compelling, and emotional.

Looking ahead into the few months off I have from school, I'm looking forward to a break where I can recharge with myself, and do the one thing I know will always stay the same: figure out how to keep going. Because that's all we can ask of ourselves in life. I saw a post on Tumblr the other day where someone recounted what their professor told them and it went something like this: "You all have a little bit of 'I want to save the world' in you, that's why you're here, in college. I want you to know that it's okay if you only save one person, and it's okay if that person is you." That's really all we can ask of ourselves in life. If we want to give to others along the way, by all means, do it. But self-care is important and it's not selfish. Kesha herself wrote an essay last Christmas about surviving the holidays with a mental illness and one particular quote continues to stick with me: "It's not your responsibility to make the whole world happy. Especially since it's not that easy to make yourself happy, either." Helping others will always be important, but helping yourself always has to come first (within reason; don't apply this to every area of life). If you've made it to the end of my first (and hopefully last) personal and emotional blog post, you're a trooper and I thank you for reading all of this. I will leave you with some other lyrics that have spoken to me a lot in the last few years from a song called "Skyscraper" by one of my favorite artists, Demi Lovato, as well as a list of some songs and movies that ease anxiety. See you soon! XOXO Gossip Jeffrey

All my windows still are broken
But I'm standing on my feet
You can take everything I have
You can break everything I am
Like I'm made of glass
Like I'm made of paper
Go on and try to tear me down
I will be rising from the ground

Like a skyscraper

Songs That Ease Anxiety:
(Bare in mind that what works for me may not work for you. Everyone is different, but it's still nice to share coping techniques.)
1) So Yesterday - Hilary Duff
2) Rainbow - Kesha
3) Learn to Let Go - Kesha
4) Skyscraper - Demi Lovato
5) Warrior - Demi Lovato
6) My Love is Like a Star - Demi Lovato
7) Shouldn't Come Back - Demi Lovato
8) I'm Alright - Shania Twain
9) Poor Me - Shania Twain
10) Human - Christina Perri
11) Jar of Hearts - Christina Perri
12) Arms - Christina Perri
13) Distance - Christina Perri feat. Jason Mraz
14) A Little Work - Fergie
15) Don't Panic - Ellie Goulding
16) Brightest Morning Star - Britney Spears
17) Complicated - Avril Lavigne
18) Fragile - Prince Fox feat. Hailee Steinfeld
19) At My Best - Machine Gun Kelly feat. Hailee Steinfeld
20) Brave Enough - Lindsey Stirling feat. Christina Perri
21) All Too Well - Taylor Swift
22) Begin Again - Taylor Swift

Movies That Ease Anxiety:
1) Girl, Interrupted
2) Juno
3) Easy A
4) Boys on the Side
5) Hello, My Name is Doris
6) The Edge of Seventeen
7) Kiki's Delivery Service
8) Beauty and the Beast (2017 live action version) 

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