This is the first ever instalment of "Dear Jasmine", inspired by the book Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. As a teenager I was obsessed with "Dear Dolly" and the sealed sections of teen magazines where people could anonymously write in with their deepest darkest secrets and questions. When I read Tiny Beautiful Things, loaned to me by my dear friend Christabel, it sparked an idea that I could use my blog platform for something similar and the idea filled me with excitement.
The whole idea of social media is for interaction and connection! What better way to enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts than to introduce a more interactive element to my blog.
So I thought I'd give it a crack and added the "Dear Jasmine" anonymous form to the blog so that anyone can write in without fear of even me knowing who they are. Below is the first of the letters received...
I would love to know what you (as someone with a history of depression) do to look after/keep tabs on your mental health on a day-to-day basis - ‘self care’, if you will. I’ve recently been diagnosed with depression & anxiety and been prescribed antidepressants which I’m responding really well to; however I don’t want to be on them forever, or rely on them as the sole caretaker of my mental health, and I’d like to get some good ‘mental health habits’ in place to help look after myself.
This is such a great question! And the fact you're asking it tells me you're already well on the way to doing all the right things. I personally was on antidepressants for 18 months and then it took me several years following that to feel back to baseline again (and in the 8 years since then I've remained at that baseline!). I felt that antidepressants helped me keep my life on track while things basically fell apart for me internally, but obviously we all have different kinds of mental health issues. Barring the individual things each unique person might have to address to help them move forwards, I think some of the things that apply to everyone in this situation are:
- Start paying attention to your inner dialogue and never stop paying attention to it. What are the things you spend your day thinking about, telling yourself? What's your inner narrative, i.e. the story you tell yourself about your life and how you've come to where you are? You have to take control of this and make sure you're backing yourself. You can acknowledge flaws and weaknesses without being negative. Overriding the way I thought was the single most instrumental part of recovering from major depression and not relapsing.
- Find out what makes you feel good and then find a balance in that. E.g. it makes me feel good to watch netflix one night a week to relax, but when I do it 4 nights a week I feel lazy and let other parts of my life slip. Everything in moderation!
- I ruthlessly remove things from my life that disrupt my happiness, sometimes too ruthlessly. I value my mental health above anything else and in the early years, I had to be very ruthless to protect it. Over time I've tried to be less ruthless about it. An example would be a part time job that I found very stressful. Is the money worth it, or could I find a different part time job for the same money with less stress? If the answer is yes = quit it and move on. I suppose this all came in a package of learning to put myself first unapologetically. Later I learnt moderation in this also as I became more able to handle stress again.
How do you feel about fruit fear? I used to eat keto, but have had to change my diet due to severe adrenal dysfunction (low cortisol) to include more carbs. My old keto mindset is still triggered whenever I use two bananas in a smoothie or eat some dates (gasp!). I’ve been losing weight much more slowly (at a glacial pace, to be exact) and every so often I wish I could just go LCHF again and drop weight quickly, but I know I need to work on healing my hormones first and foremost. So, yes, my question is this: How do you move from one mindset to another and avoid getting neurotic about things? I want to be free of food/fruit fear.
Sincerely, Set In My Old Ways
Dear Set In My Old Ways,
I think a lot of people have issues like this when switching from one way of eating to another! Specifically, I see it a lot in the bodybuilding world after competition. The issue isn't to do with the way of eating, fruit fear etc, specifically. It's the mindset that lead to the issue! Which is the perfectionism that leads to and arises from the strict restriction that a specific diet requires. Because you have sought validation and reward from following something that has "rules", it is very hard to suddenly break those rules that were part of your day to day way of knowing "you were doing ok". It's difficult to stop aiming for perfection because it feels SO GOOD to hit it! I know the feeling personally - when you've eaten well all day just as you'd planned to. It provides extra reinforcement that you had a good day. When you're use to that reinforcement, losing it (by eating something you use to feel like you couldnt/shouldnt) feels particularly painful. This is why a lot of people love IIFYM (if it fits your macros) because ALL food is allowed and so nothing feels like "breaking the rules". Ultimately, it all comes back to getting use to accepting imperfection. These days, I encourage people to never aim for 100%. Aim for 95%. Building in 5% as your wiggle room everyday means that when you're back into "normal" mode i.e. not following a diet, it doesn't feel difficult to not be following rules. I hope it's helpful, and I hope you find a way through the fruit fear soon! Some things just take a bit of time. Remind yourself of all the nutrients and fibre in the fruit and that you're not eating low carb now so a carb is a carb is a carb and you may as well get some vitamins in!
I got let go at my job last Friday (I finish out until June). Mega angry because I had 3 great performance reviews and my supervisor just lied to me every step of the way. I want to make her life miserable but also...just move on. What do I do!?
In these situations, I'm a big advocate of doing what is best for your damn self.
First of all, were all the legal processes followed? Are you satisfied that there is no way to get the job back, or that doing so is not worth it for you? Assuming it's the case that it's better to move forward because the deed is done and was done legally, comes the second part.
Fantasise about getting even... but then realise that ultimately what's best for you is moving forward. When unjust things happen to me I am ENRAGED, which is a side of me few people ever see. But unfair treatment is one of those things that really gets me going. So I often fantasise about getting even and making someone's life difficult. However I never act on this. Because I also pride myself on ultimately being a good person and so I remind myself of this, and aim to be the better person. Venting to your friends over these days and moments is super important. Tell your friends what you'd like to do to get even, how evil this supervisor is, how stupid this process was. Venting is so therapeutic and helps you move on.
This situation will pay dividends for you in the long run, despite how absolutely bullshit it is for you right now. One example is escaping this lying supervisor. Now is the time to remind yourself of all the good things in your life, all your skills, all your experience. It's crap that this happened, but this person and this company isn't going to hold you back from your ultimate potential and your true destination. It's easy for me to say this as the external party without any emotional investment, but I hope I can imbibe you with these feelings of the time to regroup, strengthen your inner determination, and take advantage of this opportunity to redirect yourself and look for what may be the next right thing out there for you.
Best wishes, I know you already know what to do.
This is such an awesome idea! I’m also going through my own mental health ‘wobbles’ and I’m feeling really lot at the moment. Despite seeking professional help, making an effort to do my cbt etc, I still have the occasional wobble, and I’m in the midst of one now. I’ve just started eating lots, my exercise has gone to zero and I feel like garbage. I know that one of my big triggers is that I start looking for control in my exercise and eating- making elaborate plans and then failing to keep them going. Do you ever slip up and end up in a hole of despair too? How to you dig your way out of them? It’s bloody hard work and I’ve spent the last two weeks feeling like garbage and waiting on my referral to speak to someone. In the mean time my work has suffered, I have constant stomach aches from the over eating and I have a massive guilt of not exercising hanging over me. Even a walk feels like too much.
Sincerely, Frustrated and miserable
Dear Frustrated and miserable,
Glad to hear from you! What you describe is so common and I see it among so many people - my friends, and past me! My previous answer discussing perfectionism ties into this as well. We aim for 100% to get validation and satisfaction from this - these elaborate plans comfort us because we imagine how much validation and reinforcement we are going to have by fulfilling these elaborate plans. Ultimately, these plans are only setting us up for failure. I stopped making plans like this years ago and I've never felt better since. Don't ever try to talk to me about "junk free June" because I will literally tell you to shut up. Stopping setting these plans is so freeing! Just simply stop! You can still set goals and outlines but take away the prescriptiveness of them and the perfection you expect. When I set goals now, they're more like "go to the gym 4 times this week" - I don't specify what I'll do there, how long I'll go for, anything above that. Sometimes I'll even be more vague like hey lets just go to the gym some days. Often I go more than this. Exceeding your goal feels great! Since I became relaxed like this I've consistently gone to the gym 4-6x a week for over 6 years! I've only had longer than a week off for either surgery, illness or for a holiday overseas. I also don't really care when I don't meet a goal anymore now. You might think this has impacted my success in life but all it's done is made me a much happier person! I just don't see the utility in creating a sense of failure and unhappiness over something as minute as only going to the gym 3 times instead of 4 times. Seriously, think about that. The impact of feeling bad about that is far worse than missing a single workout. Letting go of detailed plans was hard because it made me feel in control to have those plans. Over time I just minimised how often I did it and eventually I just stopped. I think when you realise it's not serving you it becomes easier to stop doing it. It is a HUGE illusion - it makes people feel like they're doing something (because they're planning in the now), and they're only making things worse in the long run. Seeing my friends do this is one of the most frustrating things for me to watch! But we all have our journeys and we're all individuals. The fact you've already identified this as a trigger to your spiralling tells me you already know it's a problem. Start aiming for 95%. Start practicing failure and imperfection. Challenge yourself not to comfort yourself with more plans and promises and goals. Over time, it won't be second nature to default to anymore. You got this.
So I've been doing a lot of reflecting recently. I'm a final year medical student, and I realised that in the past years, I have mainly focused on my studies (and excelled at them thankfully), working out, family, books, and really left all my free time for myself. I have always been introverted, but I feel like med school exaggerated that about me (I do realise it is not because of school, and that I am responsible for how I choose to spend my time in the end). I do have a few friendships, but if they are not in my group at the hospital where I would naturally see them everyday, I wouldn't reach out to go out, and they don't do that either (it is worth noting that I live really far from most of them and don't drive).
In addition to that, I have never dated a guy (had a few flings not worth mentioning but never a legit relationship). I attribute that to the fact that I have never met someone worth committing to, and mature enough to handle the reality of a relationship. I can't help but wonder if I'll ever have that with someone.
I came to the realization that while I achieved so much and while I do feel happy and content, and have an amazing support system and people who care and love me, I just feel like my life in unfinished without those things (great friendships and romantic love)...
Would you have any insight in my situation?
Thank you for taking the time to read this!!!
I relate to this more than you know! Despite what a lot of people think, I'm actually an introvert. I enjoy socialising but ultimately always need time alone to recharge and feel the most at peace when I'm at home by myself. Unsurprisingly, that's when you all hear from me! I do most of my instagram posting alone, and 100% of my blog writing alone. I gather my thoughts and do the majority of my reflection and self-development alone. Similarly, I also haven't had a relationship I'd call serious. Like you, a few flings. In terms of great friendships, I do consider myself very fortunate there, but it hasn't always been that way. So I can very much relate and hope I can help you out or at least reassure you with responding to this.
Firstly, I do think that people like us (very academically/career driven and ultimately introverted) have trouble in the dating world. We're less likely to go after someone - we expect them to come after us, if anything (basically we expect nothing though). We don't prioritise love and we don't NEED a partner to feel validated. We highly likely are getting validation from our own endeavours - learning, pursuing a career to help others, being strong and independent people. It is good for us as individuals to be validated internally, but it doesn't lend itself to us being easy to date. When you enter a room, we don't jump out as the most open available people there. I've known this most of my adult life. Often, I'm frankly just distracted with focus for another task or goal. I don't think it means we'll never have it, it just means we aren't having as many exposures to opportunities where that might happen. I truly believe that when I meet one of "the right people" (I don't believe in a soul mate, I believe there are multiple compatible people in the world) things will happen as they're meant to. And I believe so much of it is timing. It may be someone we've already met before but coming back into our life at the right time with the right purpose and intention and experience. It may be someone who has lived a similar life to us so far and so understands our priorities haven't been dating. I don't feel that I should go out and start dating random people just for the sake of it. I could be wrong about all of this. I've considered that maybe I won't ever marry. I'm actually ok with it. I've become such an independent person that this idea doesn't scare me. Of course I want to be in love and find a special person to share my life with, but I don't spend much time thinking about it because I have so much enjoyment for the life I've built! I think being single should be all about this - enjoying the opportunity to do as you please and further yourself with no restriction or compromise! I think there's a time in life for everything. There's the time to be single, the time for marriage, the time for kids, the time for career focus, the time for retirement. It doesn't all come in the same order and the phases aren't the same length and we don't all have all the phases, but why rush any of it? You can't move backwards in the flowchart of life, some things only move in one direction. Just enjoy the now and keep your heart open and put yourself out there within what makes you comfortable, but in the background build your life and self up so that you know you'll be fine even if you don't marry! That's how I see it anyway.
As for friendship, I think SO many adults struggle with this. Way more than people want to admit. Making friends as an adult is hard! How do you cross that boundary of how you know someone and bring them into your ~personal~ world? It can feel awkward! I personally rely on bluntness and humour. I will just straight up intrusively ask someone because I'm comfortable doing that, but I know not everyone is (and I still do feel awkward sometimes). Maintenance is also the phase most adults mess up. If you get busy/a boyfriend/ a baby/a promotion and completely neglect your friends for 2 years and then complain about it, you get zero sympathy from me. You have to put that effort in. I don't believe in closing the door on people, but if I feel the effort I'm putting in isn't reciprocated over a long period of time then I'll stop trying too and move onto people who give back to me. However, if that person comes back and consistently puts in effort again, over time I will usually start giving them my time again too. It can be hard to be the person clawing their way back. When I was depressed and then recovering I had not put in proper effort with my friends for years and was very isolated. I was lucky to still be invited to group things occasionally, even though i usually declined. Once I was recovered I started putting in effort. I started inviting people to things. I started creating group events. Initially, people often didn't reply or didn't come. It hurts! I felt low priority. And I was! Over time though, people came back into my life. People did not shut that door on me. I started with one or two friends who I'd see and then would start going to group events. I think a key part of friendship is also negotiating the friendship terms. You need to be on the same terms as them - if you're gonna talk once a month but chat deeply when you do, that's all good! As long as you both want that. If one of you expects to chat everyday and the other ignores the messages, there's gonna be problems. My larger group of school friends and I all get together every few months and all talk separately to different degrees between those catch ups, and I bear no animosity to them not texting me frequently in between! We all lead busy lives. Then I have some friends who I see rarely but message often, other friends who I see more frequently but never message. Every friendship is different and it's completely fine as long as you're both ok with it! And if you're not, don't silently fester about it, just bring it up and say hey I'd like x can we do it? Negotiate what works for both of you. People love effort and thought. It can be hard as an introvert (honestly sometimes the thought of replying to my inbox fills me with dread) but I treasure my friendships so I make that effort to maintain them (and they understand that sometimes I need a break cause I need my me-space and they don't take it personally).
You sound like a great person who people would love to be friends with! Put yourself out of your comfort zone a tiny bit more to achieve some of these things you can sense you want, and the rest of the time remind yourself that what you've got already is awesome!
Help! I’ve been single for four years now and am ready to get back into dating. But... how does one even meet people? I’m not a fan of Tinder et al.
Sincerely, Miss Match
Dear Miss Match,
Well, as detailed above, I'm hardly a love success story! However I have dated successfully in the past when it's been my priority to do so. I'm a true believer that the energy you put out does most of the work. When I've been happy, confident, and open to meet people, I've ended up meeting people in the WEIRDEST places. 2015 was the year I dated a lot. I remember a man asking for my number at the supermarket and asking if he could cook for me. A few people approached me and got to know me at the gym and then talked to me outside the gym. I was very much in a dating headspace and my vibe attracted likeminded people (fast forward to the last 18 months where I've been in a completely off-dating mindset and I can't think of a single person who's attempted to get to know me ha!). I've also used tinder and bumble in the past and I think they have their place but you have to be in the right headspace for it.
Have you considered trying some new hobbies or classes for your own sake and interest, with the added benefit of increasing your exposure to new people? When we're in a rigid routine our opportunities to meet people outside the people we already know is really limited.
Ultimately though, I do think one should aim to be happy in themselves as a single person and simultaneously open and that's when the ~magic~ happens. I don't know if this answer is helpful because I know people use to say similar things to me and I found it very unhelpful - because at the time I wanted to date and didn't really realise I was wanting to date for the wrong reasons so therefore wasn't sending out the right vibe.
Collect your thoughts, consider your routines and activities and exposure to new people, assess your vibe, and start talking to new people as much as you can!
I recently quit my training studio because the trainer has a terrible attitude problem. His wife/business partner asked for feedback in response to my membership cancellation email. Should I reply and explain that I quit because he’s a dickhead???
Sincerely, someone responsible for their own happiness.
Dear someone responsible for their own happiness,
Haha! I laughed at this. I would take a night to collect my thoughts, and then absolutely give them an honest reply. I never hesitate from being honest with businesses. They may try to make it right and convince you to come back, so I urge you not to do it out of any desire to gain compensation or any kind of one-uppance, but more to do the right thing and let them know the truth. I always do these things from the perspective of "if I was the owner of this business, I would want this feedback". I expect nothing when I give the feedback - I simply offer it as honestly and unemotively as I can, and walk away! It feels good, closes the door, and ultimately might make the world a better place!
Thank you to my first ever Dear Jasmine writers! I hope my answers were interesting, if not at all useful! Feel free to let me know if they offered you any insight. This was a really fun experience for me to interact more with you and I'm glad that it seems anonymity allowed more people to interact with me! I feel like now is the time to sign off with a cringe-worthy catchphrase but I haven't prepared one earlier... ~go well~.... ~love and light~ .... ~namaste~... ~catch you on the flip side~