How I fell victim to compassion fatigue

When the Oregon wildfires first started, I remember seeing the infamous photos of red skies and darkened horizons – the photos looked like they were dipped in red ink or covered with a red filter. I remember first seeing the photo on Reddit, featuring a UPS truck and an almost blood-red background. For me, the worst part wasn’t the feeling of horror at yet another climate disaster, or the anger at humanity’s activities that allow such disasters to occur, or even sympathy for fellow human beings in Oregon (where the first photo was taken), but it was just…apathy. Empty, hollow, apathy. A stray thought crossed my mind, who cares?, before I stopped and realised, maybe I should care. I hated myself for not having any particular emotion towards such horrific events, and that self-hate drove me towards being more compassionate and more empathetic. Honestly, though? I later realised that these feelings of emptiness, of apathy, at seeing so many disasters and horrors at once is normal – there’s even a term for it. It’s known as ‘compassion fatigue’.

Compassion fatigue can also be defined as secondary trauma or vicarious trauma, according to Psychology Today, and was often seen in professions that involved prolonged exposure to other people’s trauma (like healthcare, for example). However, in today’s world, with constant access to many of the world’s atrocities and injustices on multiple devices, it is possible to notice and be aware of injustices that take place in remote corners of the world, yet be helpless to stop them. As Dr. Amit Sood points out in his book, The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, “We are inundated with graphic images of the unimaginable suffering of millions. We can fathom the suffering of a few, but a million becomes a statistic that numbs us.” It’s this numbing, this apathy, that has been termed as compassion fatigue, and it’s a concern that is quickly growing in the general public. 

Symptoms of compassion fatigue can include physical and mental fatigue, poor self-care, difficulty concentrating, feelings of guilt, of shame, of hopelessness, and denial of the fatigue you feel. Denial is one of the more concerning symptoms.  It prevents you from assessing how stressed they are, and from seeking help. 

Compassion fatigue is dangerous because it tends to eat away at your conscience, and can trigger a toxic cycle of guilt and shame.  You end up feeling guilty for not having the energy to care and force yourself to stay more active,. This can then make you feel more fatigued at the end of it. 

However, like any other stress-related condition, compassion fatigue can impact the quality of your life. However,  it can be treated, and the first step is to be aware of how you’re feeling. Driving yourself to the point of burning out to take care of others is dangerous. It results in you not being able to do your best for the ones you care about. If you feel like you’ve had some moments when you just wanted the world to stop for a few moments (like me), or wanted to close your eyes and ignore what’s happening around you (me again), it’s time to take a step back and take a closer look at the path you’re on.

If you feel symptoms of compassion fatigue, try and reach out to a loved one. Talk about how you feel and why you feel this way, but the important thing is to set boundaries. If you’re overburdened, take a break and don’t read the news for a few days. Most disasters and injustices are out of your control. Your mind needs a rest. It can be hard to step away from what’s happening, but it’s necessary to be kind to yourself. If you want to continue browsing social media, focus on feel-good, wholesome pages, and stay away from news-related platforms. 

It’s important to take a step back and take care of yourself, but that doesn’t have to mean you isolate yourself either. Community care can be tied in with self-care – after all, people are inherently social creatures. In the long run, it’ll keep you compassionate, empathetic, and sane. 

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History Poetry Forgotten History Lost in History

You probably don’t know about Hettie Jones, a crusading Beat poet

You’ve heard of a Jack Kerouac, but have you ever heard of a Hettie Jones?

The Beat Literary Movement of the 1950s is coined for its explicit subject matter and bohemian lifestyle. Americans in the 1950’s lived in largely suburban towns and felt threatened by things like communism. Men went to work in suits and women stayed home to cook, clean, and tend to the children.

The rebel, beatnik, group of authors that made up the Beat Generation were iconoclastic. Much of their work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war era. They experimented with form and structure while writing about sex, drugs, and religion. Traditional literary houses rejected them and looked down on them as a group as being defiant, untalented, and unprofessional. 

I think that their being unconventional was the whole point, though.

They were the antithesis of mainstream American life.

They wanted to publish anything that was deemed inappropriate by society. These people were tired of the routine, and frankly, felt beaten down by the conservative lifestyle that they were stuck in. They were highly controversial in that they were the antithesis of mainstream American life and writing. Many of their works of poetry and prose focused on shifts of consciousness and escaping “squareness.” The stereotype around the Beats is that they were not in favor of what they considered to be straight jobs. Instead, they lived together, packed into small and dirty apartments, sold drugs, had sex with each other, and committed crimes. They are also known for exploring homosexuality, which was a highly taboo topic in 1950’s America.

Though they set many precedents together, the Beats still succumbed to the blatant sexism of the time. Most, if not all, of the women involved in the Beat literary movement were overshadowed by their male counterparts for no particular reason other than gender. These women were just as intelligent and qualified to question society as the beatnik men who have become well-known poets and activists.

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One of the most iconic, and downplayed, female poets of that time who deserves righted acknowledgment is Hettie Jones. 

Hettie Jones published 23 books- and yet, we forgot her

Hettie Jones is most known for her marriage to the famous Beat Poet Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones). Few people know that Hettie helped run Totem Press, one of the more important beat publishers, along with her husband. She went on to publish about 23 books, one being a memoir of her time spent with Amiri and the rest of the Beats titled, How I Became Hettie Jones (1990). She has also written for many prestigious journals, lectured writing across America, and began the literary magazine “Yugen.”

Hettie is one of my favorite poets, so I think that her writing deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement, right there with the boys who got so much praise for their work. 

Hettie’s writing is rooted in practical idealism. She left her family home in Long Island to go to college and to fully discover herself. When she graduated in 1955, she never turned back, and moved to New York City. She met Amiri while working at The Record Changer, a jazz magazine. He was a young, black poet with just as much intelligence and intensity as Hettie. They quickly fell in love and moved in together. They would go to poetry readings at cafes and bohemian bars, where they met many of the other Beat poets.

Hettie deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement.

When the pair founded their own magazine, they published the writings of many of the iconic beat players who could not find a home for their writing in the traditional sphere. Hettie was in charge of editing the works that were to be published in the magazine. It was here that she honed her craft and found power in the refined writing that makes her work stand out from the rest. 

By 1960, Hettie and Amiri had two children, were married, and lived in New York City. Being a biracial family, though, countless bigoted remarks were directed towards them regardless of the Beat scene. Hettie was on the receiving end of most of these cold stares and was able to see the world through the eyes of her husband and children. This affected her incredibly and eventually became a recurring theme in her writing.  

When Amiri became tightly involved with the Black Power movement, he was criticized for having a white wife. They divorced in 1968. Hettie thrived on her own though and made a living with her children while teaching and editing. Her separation from her husband also gave Hettie an outlet to speak up and finally publish works of her own. She has been quoted to say, “Without a him in the house, there was more space/time for her, and I tried to redefine the way a woman might use it.” 

To this day, Hettie’s writing is compassionate. She writes about her own experiences in a compelling manner while weaving in the issues that she cares about. Currently, Hettie lives in New York City, and is a writer and lecturer. In addition, she runs a writing workshop at the New York State Correctional Facility for Women where she recently published a volume of writing by incarcerated women.

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Culture Family Life

A love letter to libraries

I know that I am not alone when I say that we, as humans, find a lot of solace in libraries. They are temples of knowledge, housing collections of stories and dreams alike on their shelves. Libraries are as much a part of our culture as anything else. People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries. In a way, they hold the key to all of our stories,

I love libraries, and I am terrified to see their eventual demise, especially as our world becomes almost entirely digital. They are gems from the past that have maintained vitality no matter the circumstances or happening outside of their walls. Not to mention they are the cornerstones of entire communities, maybe even countries, granting light and stability to people when nothing, or no one, else seemed able to. They offer more than just books; they offer entry into a space that seems more like a sanctuary run by people grounded in compassion, commitment, creativity, and resilience.

People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries.

I used to go to the library near my grandparents’ house every other Friday. For the most part, my mom took my brothers and me there to get a new book for school or to see what DVDs we could bring home to watch that evening. But I remember roaming around, starstruck, in between the tall shelves, wondering about the people who wrote each and every single one of those books and how long it might have taken to get them all here.

Most weeks, my mother let me get two books instead of one. I could spend hours there if it was permitted. I always liked watching my mom pick her books for the week, too. She seemed so sophisticated and gentle while scanning the shelves, yet she never knew exactly what she was looking for. If it was winter, afterward we would all pile back into the car with our hardcover books and grab a slice of pizza. If it was summer, we would walk to the Italian Ice shop down the street for some cream ice – those were the best days. 

I fear that libraries have been taken for granted, even in my own life, and am always spellbound to find them chock full of unexpected people, doing unexpected things, with unexpected passions. There is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling, the pure excitement in my stomach, that erupts every time I am searching in a library for the perfect tale to dig into. A trip to the library seems, to me, to be enchanted. I become whimsical, enveloped by the completeness and simplicity of the entire journey.

Even the smell of a library is impossible to replicate because of its specificity and poignance. I am reminded of sandalwood, dusk, and a particular, antiquated, dampness. Its familiarity is beyond comforting. The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination. 

I feel at home while pattering around and tracing my fingers between the shelves of books. I fall in love while blowing the dust off of the covers, revealing bright colors and exquisite lines. I spend hours crinkling through the aged, already yellowing, pages of novels wondering which I will pick this time. It is never an easy decision, and I always leave with dozens underneath my arms wondering if the others will still be there when I return the next week. But, that’s the beauty of libraries, isn’t it? Every visit is entirely different from the last and there is no telling what you might stumble upon. Yet each visit is also starkly familiar. 

The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination.

Books have changed so much of my life, with plotlines, characters, and lessons that have been woven into nearly everything I do – that is every decision, every consideration, and everything that I have grown to appreciate or even pay a little bit more attention to. Books are there to remind me of what’s important, and when I’m not so sure, they’re there for me to lean on. Without libraries, though, I might have never been allowed membership into such a world of splendor. 

Career Life

This is the worst thing about losing a job you love because of COVID-19

Losing my job wasn’t part of my plan for 2020. But, yesterday, I got a call from my boss. She tried to tell me, in tears, that my contract wasn’t being renewed because of COVID-19.

The worst thing about losing a job that you love isn’t the loss itself. So many people have been fired from their jobs during the COVID crisis – no matter how unjustly, how good they were at what they did – that I was already half-expecting to lose mine. But you want to know what I hate the most, right now?

Everyone around me telling me things like “don’t be sad, this will bring about great things!”

We have this saying in Italian – and I swear I’ve heard it at least twenty times since yesterday – that I would translate quite literally into ‘a door closes, a gate opens.’ It’s basically the standard phrase you say to someone who just lost their job, closed an important chapter in their lives, or missed a big opportunity.

So many people have absent-mindedly told me that today. I get that they are trying to cheer me up, but I should be allowed to just… grieve in peace for a day. My real friends know that. They’re the ones who were on the phone with me for hours as I tried to hold it together and then ended up weeping on my kitchen floor. The ones who would’ve run here to hold me in their arms for hours if not for these damned social distancing measures brought about by Coronavirus.

“You’re brilliant, you’ll find another job in no time!” Oh, really? The situation in our country is so dire that a place where I’ve been for 5 years literally couldn’t afford to pay me. The news talks about how our economy may never recover from this. And you think a better place is going to hire me in two days? I get that you’re trying to help, but it’s not working.

Right now, I don’t want to hear about how I can “do better than this.” I don’t care if the people who love me thought this wasn’t the best place for me. I don’t care if they perceived I was being treated unfairly and worked too much and got too little in return. I don’t care if it would stress me out to the point that my physical (and mental, of course) health was being affected.

I loved my job. I loved my colleagues, I loved the people I interacted with every day. And – not to be overly dramatic – I know that I will miss it for the rest of my life.

The worst thing is that they downplay what this experience meant for me. Because my company and job were something foreign to them, something they simply don’t understand, they deliberately ignore that this was serious. They knew that I gave it my heart and soul, and they didn’t like that. I feel like they were just praying and hoping I would lose the job, simply because it’s not what they wanted for me. Not what they expected me to do.

“You were made for greater things.” How do you define great? And by what parameter my position apparently wasn’t good enough for them? Shouldn’t I choose what great is for me? All they did the entire time I worked there was how much better I could do. How much more I could earn and how much more respect and recognition I would get elsewhere.

I started this full-time job exactly 8 days after graduating from college. My supervisor saw my potential and decided to invest in me. I started out as an assistant – not an intern – and less than a year later I was promoted to coordinator. In one year, I became my starting position’s supervisor. I had people who reported to me and immense responsibilities. The people above me didn’t just do that randomly. They saw how much I was worth and they made decisions based on my value.

I became a real professional, respected by my peers and superiors in my company, and still, my family couldn’t see that. To this day, they still don’t understand what it is that I did every day. Some of them never bothered to ask. They just knew that I was at work for too many hours of the day and worked overtime every week and wasn’t getting paid enough. They didn’t care that the job fulfilled me and that it made me a real functioning adult.

They just saw how tired I was, and how my health wasn’t improving – not that I ever complained – but they disregarded how happy I was, no matter how many times expressed it. I was content. I told them a million times that I wanted to continue down this path, and all I got in response was this haunting litany: “you can do better than that.”

Losing my job broke my heart. I knew it could happen with COVID and, of course, it sent me down a spiraling vortex of anxiety: what will I do now? How can I find another job in this crisis? Should I apply for state aid, since I’m unemployed?

I am fortunate enough to have a roof over my head, savings, and parents who will always support me economically no matter what. That is a privilege I do not take for granted. But I just wish they gave me compassion. I don’t want to hear about how I was meant to do greater things. I don’t want to hear about all the companies I should apply for and how much they would pay me right now.

For one day, one day only, I want to be left alone and allowed to grieve. Mourn what I lost. The everyday routine, my colleagues whom I love dearly and consider some of my closest friends. I spent five years of my life at this institution. It’s only fair to request one day to cry.

Mental Health The Pandemic Love + Sex Love

What is the new intimacy in a world without touch?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the very fabric of our lives in more ways than we can count. The entire world is uncertain; not knowing where to turn or who to turn to. It seems that the only thing that is constant is this sense of dangling amongst nothing. 

Before this crisis, many people would escape their routine to find some sort of getaway within the world of dating, but now COVID-19 has taken charge and made this nearly impossible. Being forcefully torn away from such a break keeps people trapped in the banalities of everyday life. Not to mention that all of those feelings of tediousness have become exacerbated in quarantine. I can say for myself that it feels like I am spiraling in this scenario which has no end in sight. 

Something that used to keep me grounded, the relationships that I have with the people that I don’t live with, is indefinitely and physically unattainable. I’m having a hard time grappling with the long-lasting implications that this has for our generation of young people and lovers. I’m afraid that Coronavirus is changing how we date. 

Relationships have become completely reliant on technologyand I’m turned off. Sure people have been online dating for awhile now, but there was always a possibility of something in-person. I hope that when the COVID-19 outbreak blows over virtual romance doesn’t become permanent. 

In-person chemistry is almost impossible to replicate; certain social cues, expressions, and emotions can only barely be acknowledged virtually.

Therefore, a very distinct barrier exists in terms of dating and love during times like these, and it’s not our fault. We can, and we will, do what we can to fill those gaps up until we start to brush against the walls of such technological limitations

For those same reasons, I am anxious about the lack of physical touch while in isolation for COVID-19. Being able to simply touch, or be near, another person is known to generate trust and sense of community. My boyfriend and I are not quarantining together, for simple and obvious reasons.

We didn’t live with each other before all of this either. But now, our relationship has been unprecedentedly restricted. I can see the strain. We depend on things like physical touch, even just being in the literal presence of each other to feel love and comfort. The lack of touch seems to be a completely different experience than this; maybe the opposite.

I feel unsure and as if there is a dull, whole body, ache that never gets settled. In the time since our ability to touch has been put on hold, I’ve recognized just how essential it is. I am hungry to be held, even if for just a minute. I can only try to mimic his open-armed grasp with a weighted blanket for so long before I have forgotten the sensation of it entirelyuntil it becomes a distant memory. 

Sometimes, during all of this, I feel strange in my own body. It is as if my skin is thinner than ever before. I am thinking that this sensitivity is because our distance has manifested in my mind as rejection. My relationship has been steady, but shaky, while in quarantine. There are just some things that can’t be duplicated. I have found that when him and I do talk on the phone, I don’t have much to say.

Not that there is nothing left to say, there is plenty, but that I don’t want to have to say anything to be with him. I am okay with just being near. Much of the foundation of our relationship is based on small physicalities that lay on those exact walls of technological limitations.

I just don’t want to forget about them or what they feel like. I need them in times like these; my body has been trained to rely on them to feel salvation from suffering. 

I am afraid that we, as completely social creatures, will become so deprived and lonely that we won’t know how to fix it when society opens up again. The result of our current isolation is way beyond ourselves and our actions, but the implications still remain. I can’t help but wonder if we are becoming too far gone from the depths of compassion to save whatever is left of it.

Fashion Lookbook

MyScene taught me about style, empowerment, and compassion

Here’s a visual: It’s 2005. You’re sitting in front of the desktop computer in your house, which seems to have a box attached to the back of it, and you’re on hour 3 of playing MyScene. That’s right, MyScene. The online gaming site that let you transform into an interior designer, makeup artist, hair stylist, nail technician, spa business owner, and go on seemingly endless glamorous shopping sprees. The MyScene franchise consisted not only of computer games, but also of dolls and movies — Jammin’ In Jamaica is my personal favorite if you want to experience 44 minutes of pure nostalgia.

At the time, there was absolutely no denying that I wanted to be them. I mean, who wouldn’t? They’re all icons with flawless fashion. Each character Barbie, Madison, Chelsea, and Nolee had their own individual brand of sass, flare, and style. Plus, as we watched their characters come to life onscreen, we learned that these ladies were also empowered, intelligent, and compassionate. Barbie was interested in technology and business, Madison was a songwriter and band manager, Chelsea loved fashion design and sold items that she customized at the market, and Nolee was the sporty one of the group with an inclination to mathematics. 

To say the least, the MyScene girls introduced me to a world of girl power and badassery, and I cannot thank them enough for that. I grew up alongside four older brothers, so when I wasn’t trying to keep up with them, I was vigorously trying to find feminine outlets. And this was that for a while. I could be as unapologetically sensitive, bold, and imperfect as I wanted to be, and it was amazing. I felt like I was right there alongside them, navigating the plights of womanhood as a young girl trying to break through the mold. 

I used to spend hours on the computer too; hours that I now look upon fondly. I think that this is where I found my fashion roots, to be honest. For one, there was nowhere else that I could be a true fashionista and transform almost immediately into anything and anyone. My closet wouldn’t suffice for the kinds of possibilities and outfits that I was looking for, and neither were the handful of dolls clothes that I had. But here the options were boundless. I could be a superstar or a diva if I wanted to. And trust me… I was!

With sites like MyScene, we were able to quite literally express ourselves anyway we chose time and time again. I quickly learned to appreciate my creativity and let it run free as I surfed through different styles or aesthetics and matched them with different activities or careers. It was expansive, fresh, and valuable. I grew to adore this part of myself. 

I found out what I liked, what I didn’t like, and — while it may seem like a stretch — I even learned about budgeting (using coins inherited through the game of course), patience, precision, and discipline. I mean, the product that I came up with just had to be perfect if it was going to be successful, which is an ideology that has lasted with me into adulthood. 

I cherish those days spent with MyScene, sifting through skirts, headbands, and purses, because they morphed me into the woman that I am today and will be tomorrow. She is curious, warm, loud, and would much rather wear a dress than a pair of jeans. She has incredible drive, values empathy over anything else, and is willing to go the extra mile to take something from good to great. Oh, and she also still cries every time she watches a romcom.

What’s even better is that those early 2000’s MyScene styles that we all adored as kids have finally returned to mainstream fashion. We get to put all those years of gaming and idolizing to the test as we put on the outfits and the attitudes to match, to decorate our own lives like we did with Barbie, Madison, Chelsea, and Nolee so many years ago. 

Book Reviews The Tempest Reading Challenge Love + Sex Love Books

Relationship expert Iris Krasnow unravels the secrets of real intimacy

Iris Krasnow is a journalist, storyteller, friend, mother, wife, and my professor.

I first met Krasnow when I was a freshman in college. She was my professor for an introductory writing class in which I had written a personal essay about ghosting for my final assignment. Looking back at this piece, it might have been more of a rant, but nonetheless this was one of the first times that I felt heard through my writing. She let me write candidly about the space in-between the lines of nurturing and insufficient relationships. She let me grow. 

Krasnow is curious, compassionate, and the author of seven best-selling books all about intimate relationships. Her book Sex After… Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes is the self-help book that has been selected for The Tempest’s Reading Challenge this year and just this past April she published Camp Girls: Fireside Lessons on Friendship, Courage, and Loyalty.

For me, Krasnow is a defining voice of reason for anything in the periphery of relationships, communication, love, and womanhood. Each of her books revolves around personal growth in conjunction with intimate relationships. Sex After offers a series of compelling, and reliable, insights about how to build an intimate relationship, whether that be romantically or with family and friends. The vitality of any relationship is dependent on love and commitment. Basically, true love is found within emotionality. That is, your ability to relate to another person and to enhance their experiences. It is not always about lust. But I’d say that it is somewhat about longing, though. 

This longing could be found within commitment. Each chapter in Sex After focuses on some major life event or change being thrown suddenly onto a couple and ultimately how they persevere. She talks to breast cancer survivors, widows, women who came out later in life, and couples who have experienced infidelity. Each time they tackle the problem, make it their own, and connect through mind, body, and soul along the way. Sure, almost always they also go through the stages of despair and agony, but more often than not these couples do come out stronger and more in love than they were before. This is all a result of trust and reliability. Through this combined process of healing, people, especially women, begin to feel validated. And validation, to me, is an extremely close step towards genuine intimacy.

The female growth cycle seems to be evergreen in her writing. Each character becomes sexier and more alive with every turn of the page. Krasnow’s in-depth reporting and research explores sexuality credibly in real-time and ensures understanding on nearly every level—for nearly every emotion or phase of bodily awakening. 

I love the emphasis that she places on non-sexual love, too, which is why I find so much comfort in her recent book Camp Girls. There is truly nothing like the solace we find in conversations with friends about things along every dotted line in the spectrum. Together, Krasnow makes clear, we can manifest the ellipsis while gaining lessons that are impossible to replicate without the connected experiences that we share with those who are growing and learning just the same by our side. These relationships maintain incredible intimacy, as well as a shoulder to lean on, through allegiance, sympathy, care, and exploration. Krasnow shares that her friends help her feel stronger, more in tune with inner-self, and that hours together feel like seconds while memories from decades ago feel like yesterday. Their company keeps her young, feisty, and in love. 

One notion that I’ve learned from Iris Krasnow that has stuck with me is the idea that you have to be your own soulmate. You will never have the capacity to love someone else, or to believe that another person loves you, unless you love yourself first.

Real intimacy is found after unraveling the layers and free-falling into the depths that you alone locate. With compelling words, Iris Krasnow reminds women of every generation that we must remain honest with our raw selves and loyal to those we grace, and are graced, with companionship. 

Big news: I will be going live with Iris Krasnow herself on The Tempest Instagram (@WeAreTheTempest) on Thursday, May 21, at 12pm EST. We’ll have a candid conversation about love, sex, and everything in between! Join us and come ask Iris your questions.
Editor's Picks Culture Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Will getting married really make my life complete?

I love, love. I just don’t love marriage. The married people in my life have always adored each other, but something was definitely missing. Something was always wrong. Someone was always upset, one way or another.

This constant irritation gets old after awhile.

It’s the fights over bill payments, disputes over the most trivial matters, mistakes from 20 years ago that are brought up again and again, and just plain stagnancy. I can tell that some of my family members feel stuck in their marriage even if they are too embarrassed or terrified to say it. This is not love, or at least it is not the love that I’ve always dreamed about. Marriage might be too co-dependent, and too predictable for me.

Many people marry to fill the void that society tells us our lives would not be complete without. For some reason, our relationships struggle to be considered valid if there is not a diamond ring to be accounted for. When love is real and meaningful it is also eternal, so why do we feel like we need to march declaratively down the aisle to prove its validity?

Marriage might be too co-dependent, and too predictable for me.

For me, it seems that marriage has become an economic institution in which you are given nothing more than social status and succession. It is so easy to become blinded by the conceptions surrounding traditions like marriage that there appears to be no other choice than to join in.

At this point though, most of the romance and novelty has already been sucked out of the tradition. Perhaps this is because when you get married, your relationship becomes a need rather than a want. This is not to say that true love can’t fuel a marriage, but that factors other than love are increasingly becoming a reason to get, and to remain, married. Not to mention that those reasons have the potential to diminish whatever love already existed. 

I am afraid to get married because I don’t want to make a mistake.

Marriage is meant to be a fairytale, or so we are told. Yet so many people are in unhappy, even toxic, marriages. There are marriages that have strong power dynamics which make it nearly impossible to leave. Once married, couples are viewed as parts of a whole, rather than as whole themselves. I don’t need my “other half,” I can stand on my own.

Reluctant to divorce because of societal pressure, many people know that the love that they had for their partner was far more profound before marriage put a label on it and boxed it up. Genuine love is built with patience and tenderness. Love should be natural, compassionate, and without barriers. 

I am afraid to get married because I don’t want to make a mistake. I don’t want things other than love to get in the way of my relationship, but I also know that from the moment I say “I do” it is inevitable. There is a tiny, and very exclusive, narrative of marriage that all people are supposed to fall into when they take that leap into tradition. I am not saying people shouldn’t get married, but I am saying that I don’t think genuine and ageless love requires such an archaic label.

What I want is love, not a marriageI think that is the main difference.

The problem here is that if I don’t get married, I know that I will be making someone disappointedmaybe even myself. When I think about these life-defining moments, I often remind myself that love will live forever, whether you are married or not. What I want is love, not a marriageI think that is the main difference.

The couples that fall out of bounds, though, are sometimes the ones that put so much effort into focusing on what their relationship “should” look like, rather than its reality. The ones that do not get married are often viewed as being abnormally strange, and in some societies as having lost their way.

Marriage is apparently that guidance.

But, when we get married, we are so willing to accept that not everyone is the exception and can have a miraculous, long-lasting, and passionate love story.

We are so willing to accept that the love dust has settled and that since every marriage is built on the same foundation, we have made it to the peak. That the wedding day is the best day of a young couple’s life and the rest is downhill from there.

I think we all deserve a better narrative.

I think every single one of us deserves to be swept off of our feet every day for as long as we loveand true love, while it may ache, never dies.

Health Care Wellness

Asking for help does not mean admitting defeat

Trigger Warning: Mentions suicide, anxiety and depression.

The first time I went to therapy was as a sophomore in college when a random panic attack before my first ever Honors’ class sent me spiraling all the way to the counselors’ office. I continued to go for the rest of the semester, grateful that the offices were tucked away discretely on campus so that I would never have to explain to friends what made me go to therapy. Two years later, my older brother died of suicide.

Armed with a tangible reason, I was no longer concerned about what people thought as I prioritized my mental health. The cluster of internal dilemmas within had never weighed heavily enough on the invisible scale of emotional pain before, but my brother’s death became a fitting ticket of validation that allowed me to seek help without being ashamed. And that thought haunts me.

My brother’s suicide was completely unforeseen. He was a charming, intelligent, friendly, and sensitive man who was loved by so many. He was a student at a university in Boston, worked full-time, and would only come home once in a couple of years. In his last message to us, he confessed that he felt like he was putting on an act of keeping it together. Other than the toxic society we all wade in and get contaminated by, my brother was also struggling with an internal dialogue he never let the rest of us in on. I spent months thinking about why he thought he wasn’t good enough, but even longer wondering what made him think he wasn’t even good enough to ask for help.

The cluster of internal dilemmas within had never weighed heavily enough on the invisible scale of emotional pain before, but my brother’s death became a fitting ticket of validation that allowed me to seek help without being ashamed.

It’s not that he didn’t have access to information or resources. In the past few years especially, the conversation around mental health awareness has continued to expand and include a variety of voices and experiences. However, as the conversation deepens, it often uncovers struggles that are far more ‘intense’ than our own. A person dealing with waves of anxiety may feel their pain outweighed by another person who battles crippling OCD.  A person with high-functioning depression will always seem better off than a person wrestling with paralyzing depression. The Pandora’s Box of information around mental health has finally opened but as we process this overwhelming amount of information, we often end up placing problems side by side on the same invisible scale my sophomore-self was using.

I understood anxiety as the feeling that envelops you during an overwhelming panic attack, when in fact that there can be layers of anxiety that lead up to it instead. As a student, I spent too many mornings before an exam heaving over a toilet bowl after a night of insomnia, and ending the day with a fever. Dubbed a nervous girl with a weak stomach, I didn’t realize the impact anxiety had on me until the full-blown panic attack in sophomore year. I remember the feeling of relief that settled into my chest as I was given an appointment with a therapist based on the panic attack. It almost felt like I was worthy enough to finally be helped, rather than being ‘dramatic’ or too sensitive.

Self-imposed shame is an obstacle for innumerable people around the world who have accepted mental health’s existence but cannot extend the dialogue to themselves without admitting defeat.

Because the conversation around mental health gained momentum only a few years ago, there are a lot of negative thoughts that we have internalized as an ignorant society that belittle the vast spectrum of mental health. If a mere headache can have layers of treatment – from an aspirin to eye-tests to MRIs – then why does the chronic sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach have to be deemed any less worthy? And yet, we wait for a breakdown to be able to relate all our newfound knowledge about mental health to ourselves. It’s easier to offer help, love, and support to those we care about so when we see a friend struggling, we help them discuss all their options without brushing the issue aside. But when it comes to ourselves, we decide independently that resources like therapy and medication are reserved for those who are ‘really suffering’.

This idea of self-imposed shame haunts me as it remains my biggest obstacle against helping myself. It was an obstacle for the 19 year old girl who didn’t know how to tell her friends she had to see a therapist because she was nervous and didn’t know why. It was an obstacle for my brother who hid behind a cloak of high-functioning depression for so long, it kept him from seeing how much he was struggling himself. And it’s an obstacle for innumerable people around the world who have accepted mental health’s existence but cannot extend the dialogue to themselves without judging themselves for being ‘weak’ or admitting defeat.

We shouldn’t need a dramatic life event to justify helping ourselves. Just like there are ways to cater to milder forms of physical ailments, there are also ways to cater to the mental challenges we go through every day. The judgmental thoughts that arise and keep us from doing so, are thoughts we internalized long before we had all the information we do today. To continue the progress this dialogue has made, we must also stop judging ourselves and equating the idea of self-help to a defeatist attitude. Our health is personal and does not need to be justified to, or validated by anyone else. In the past few years, we have made enormous strides in accepting the information around mental health; perhaps it’s time to destigmatize and accept its resources as well.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, check out the resources below:

* Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of international suicide hotlines.

* People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline via TTY by dialing 1-800-799-4889 or use the Lifeline Live Chat service online.

* Text TALK to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free counseling.

* Call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for free, confidential support for substance abuse treatment.

* Call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), for confidential crisis support.

* Call Trevor Lifeline, 1-866-488-7386, a free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth.

7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.


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Love + Sex Love Life Stories Advice Life

3 ways to stop blocking your blessings in love

If you grew up around abusive unhealthy love, or have experienced unhealthy relationships, it is mostly what you end up being attracted to subconsciously.

I believe that this is true because it explains why I was once so attracted to love that never quite met my needs. In Why We Keep Attracting The Wrong Partners, the idea is that we attract what we think we deserve and what we think we deserve is deeply rooted in what we experienced or witnessed in our early childhood. For me, I have always thought there has to be a way to change damaged men; I have watched my mom try to crack the code since I was conscious enough to notice to subtleties of her marriage with my father.

It is natural to be uncomfortable with unfamiliar things, even when they are good for us. As living creatures, our natural instinct is to either fight the things that scare us or run away from them. Despite what our bodies may be feeling in new situations, I am here to tell you that it is okay to stay in uncomfortable things that are good for you because that is where the biggest growth happens.

Recently, I started dating someone who is so thoughtful and kind, it’s actually kind of gross how cute he is. A few weeks ago, when I was in the middle of an anxiety attack on the phone with him, he left work because my wellbeing is important to him. He came over with my comfort foodChinese yellow rice and fried chickenand after making sure I ate, he lay in bed with me and held me as I tried to calm down.

I’m in a really healthy relationship with someone who has more than enough time to shower me with loving affirmations. After three soul-sucking unhealthy relationships, this one feels too good to be true. At first, it was really unsettling and at times it still is. In my current relationship, there are no manipulative chasing games, being left on reading for days, gaslighting, insecurity inducing neglectful behaviors, verbal abuse, nor emotional misleading. Instead, I’m told really sweet things every day and my wildest dreams are encouraged.

However, I still find myself thinking that this form of stability is only a mind made up reality. My own past traumas can’t believe it’s real. I’ve confused unhealthy patterns with healthy ones before making it really hard to feel confident in my own present-day understandings of my new relationship. 

A new relationship is an exciting thing, especially the beginning stages. After identifying my needs in my new relationship and being in open communication with my partner about what those are, I get a good feeling in my body that lets me know it’s okay to keep moving forward. The following things have helped me become more open to my partner’s genuine efforts to love me for who I am, despite the trauma from my past abusive relationships:

1. Recognizing why I attract what I attract

[Image description: A GIF of a girl tapping her chin and looking up in a pensive position.] Via Giphy
It’s very hard to fix something when you don’t know what needs fixing. In my relationships, much like my need to have my dad be more emotionally available to me, I tend to seek validation from emotionally empty men. I attract partners who can’t offer me genuine love because I subconsciously do not believe I deserve it. At least not without having to work hard for it. In the past, I have been comfortable with begging for affection because I had been doing it my whole life.

2. Prioritizing my well-being 

[Image description: A GIF of Oprah Winfrey taking a bubble bath smiling with white wine.] Via Giphy
We can lie to everyone, but ourselves. Unpacking trauma from past relationships can leave us on edge and unable to trust others. In the early stages of my relationship, I debated the following questions a lot: do I feel safe when I am with this person? Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally? If not, what do I need? For a while, I tried so hard to hide all of my apprehensive feelings but after a while, I realized there were things that I needed from my boyfriend in order to feel safe. A good indicator that your significant other’s intentions are pure is if they do the work to meet you where you’re at.

3. Going at my own pace

[Image description: A GIF of a couple in bed, the woman is on top of her partner and they are smiling at each other.] Via Giphy
My boyfriend has already told me he loves me. Instead of giving into the moment and saying it back, I told him that I still need more time. In past relationships, my eagerness to fill my voids has made me rush things. I allowed myself to fall all too deeply and too fast without really taking the time to process all the newness. This made me miss out on a lot of red flags. I’ve since made a vow, that I will check in with myself throughout all of my relationships to make sure things are going at a pace I feel comfortable with.

After taking the time to soul search, accept my needs, and communicate them with my partner I felt ready, I feel safe and in control of my well-being. If you’re still debating if you can trust the person who is trying to give you the world, know that your body will know what does not feel right. Listen to your intuition and trust that you will have your own back.

Love Life

5 things I’ve learned from being a dog mom

Last week my puppy, Shiloh, turned one year old. That meant two things: one, he’s reached his full form and two, the hardest puppy months are finally over. I got Shiloh from an old high school friend who has his mom, Suzie. We knew his dad was smaller than Suzie, but how big Shiloh was going to get was still a mystery.

Fast forward 12 months: we now know he’s huge! He’s also potty-trained to go outside, he picks up commands pretty fast, and he’s stopped chewing on things. These things make it so much easier to care for him, although his puppy energy is still on a thousand from the moment he wakes up to right before I decide we’re going to bed.

Shiloh is an emotional support dog. I spend a lot of time working from home and he helps with making me feel less alone. When my anxiety is bad he helps me be more present. When I don’t feel like getting out of bed, he forces me to get up by either barking at me or nibbling at my hands suggesting that he needs us to go “outside.” The coolest part about having Shiloh has been getting to know his personality. He gets very excited about anything, loves every food but lettuce, fetch and tag are his favorite games, babies confuse him, he has trust issues with new people, and is very protective of his/our space.  

Before I got a dog, Mariah – my little brother’s girlfriend, who’s more like my younger sister – tried explaining just how much of responsibility a dog is, but it wasn’t until I found myself needing to put his needs before mine that I realized what she meant. It’s been fun though and I’ve learned a lot about what being a mom mean.

Being a mom to Shiloh has taught me:

1. Time management is crucial in the mornings

[Image Description: Woman pouring morning fruit shake doing a little happy dance.] Via GIPHY
I love having a thorough morning before leaving my house. I like to shower, make coffee, have breakfast, prep my food, and leave looking my best. With Shiloh, I’ve had to add time to cuddle with him, walk him, feed him, and make sure he feels comfortable staying home alone before I leave. After a while “needing” to walk your dog becomes a chore. Especially for me because Shiloh loves to take his sweet time going. If I mess up with the time, sleep in, and don’t get a chance to walk him (which has happened about full of time) a guilty feeling follows me the rest of my morning. I imagine him being in pain from needing to hold it and it makes me feel horrible. With this being said, I wake up earlier than I would if I wasn’t a mom.

2. Patience in the presence of anger goes a long way

A GIF of someone taking a deep breath as if to calm herself down.
[Image description: A GIF of someone taking a deep breath as if to calm herself down.] via GIPHY
I can not stress how important patience is when raising a puppy. When Shiloh wasn’t potty trained and chewed on just about everything, I was sure I was going to lose my goddamn mind. I found myself repeating things to him over and over again only to have him look at me with a cute gaze and without control still pee on our hardwood floor. Last week Wiz Khalifa posted a video of him talking to his son, Sebastian, on Instagram that shows exactly what I’m talking about.  I have to stay conscious enough to not give into anger. Yelling can easily become a habit because to me it feels natural. My family and I talk to each other by screaming. However, dogs — very much like little kids–  learn better through calm assertiveness and repetitiveness. Hence, patience.

3. Disciplining with intentional compassion is better than disciplining by instinct

A GIF of a dog licking a woman's chin.
[Image description: A GIF of Cookie, Rosanna Pansino’s dog, licking her chin.] via GIPHY
Compassion is the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and/or misfortunes of others. To me disciplining Shiloh with a hint of compassion means that I have learned to remember that he’s in his puppy phase. Unlike older dogs, puppies have a lot of energy and are extremely curious. Moreover, it is in every dog’s natural instinct to be scavengers so naturally, he’s going to eat what he finds. Some dog species are also more protective than others. Even at four months, new people in our house made him extremely anxious and he feels a strong need to protect. He is still this way. Instead of yelling at him, I remove him from the situation until he calms down. I slowly introduce the person to him with treats. Is it annoying and embarrassing when he won’t stop barking at new people who come over, yes? Do I still feel more concern for how he’s feeling than those of others, most definitely?

4. Being responsible for another being’s upbringing is hard work

A GIF of someone asking, "When can I take a break?"
[Image description: A GIF of someone asking, “When can I take a break?”] via GIPHY
Y’all, this is the biggest one. Being a dog mom has taught me that being responsible for another being’s upbringing is hard work. It is exactly what it sounds like. I use to be really hard on my parents until I realized just how hard it is to actively try not to mess up your kid. I think a lot about what’s in his food, how I discipline him, the things I let him get away with, and how safe I make him feel, amongst a bunch of other things. I question the things I’m doing right or wrong. I might be dramatic to take the time to think about these things, but if so it just means I’m going to be an extremely thoughtful mom to my human children.

5. I am most definitely not ready to have human kids

A GIF of someone making a nonchalant shrug.
[Image description: A GIF of someone making a nonchalant shrug.] via Genius
I love my dog, and he has taught me that I am going to make a great and loving mother. With that being said, I am still not ready for real kids. He has shown me how my mornings need to change for real kids, how annoying it feels to have to go to work and leave him alone, the struggle that is disciplining another being, and how hard it is to care for someone who depends on you for their survival. In short, I’m good love.

Love + Sex Love Advice

When the honeymoon phase ended, reality hit my marriage hard

The significance of the wedding nuptials or the sheer grandeur of the functions is enough to distract a young couple from wondering about what life will be like once the honeymoon phase ends and all the guests have gone home. Once all the hoo-haa dies down, the young couple is left with each other and reality.

Reality hides in the shadows when we fall in love, it remains hidden when we begin planning and executing our dream wedding. It only rears its ugly head into the doorway a day or two or maybe even a week after we return from the honeymoon. Once the guests have left and the couple can truly start becoming themselves, reality sinks in into our lives to wreak havoc.

I have been married to a wonderful guy coming from an equally wonderful family for over three years.

I got a fairytale wedding and none of the typical predicaments of a desi girl’s married life were present. My in-laws turned out to be exemplary people, just as they were before the wedding. My husband didn’t leave me to rot in Pakistan but he whisked me away to my honeymoon and then to England as promised.

And I was not expected to single-handedly manage the concerns of a bustling house, nor was I to be a maid to the whims and demands of the family.

But after my perfect honeymoon with the perfect man, I came to terms with my not-so-perfect reality: I was utterly incapable of living by myself. You see, all my life I had done just one thing: study for and train to be an accountant. And honestly, that’s all I knew how to do.

I incessantly ignored my mother’s insistence on learning how to be a functional adult. I was very well-looked-after and never needed to iron my own clothes, cook my own food or even make myself a cup of coffee.

And so began the arguments. Doors may or may not have been slammed, dinners may or may not have been left uneaten and many nights have or may not have been sleepless.

Every couple fights, every couple has disagreements, but every couple needs to find a way around it. A marriage is not something you throw away because ‘it isn’t working out’. If it isn’t working out, you make it work out.

That was the mantra our parents had raised us with and accordingly, we set out to fix our ‘flawed reality’.

We had to identify the root cause of the problem, and in our case, it was me. You can rest assured I did not give in to agreeing that I was the problem without a fight. The problem was always my husband’s high expectations and the patriarchy. Most definitely the patriarchy. Of course! What else could be the problem other than a man deciding how a woman should behave and respond to life?

How unreasonable was it of my husband to expect me to carry my own weight. How could he expect me to help out with life and all its miseries?

But when the penny dropped it dawned on me that my husband was not being so unreasonable after all. I (very begrudgingly, might I add) came to terms with my own incapability. It was not pretty, as such realizations often are. But this painful comprehension had to penetrate my impervious mind.

Now came the real challenge. It wasn’t easy and I am nowhere near attaining the targets I have set for myself. My husband, to his credit, gave me ample time to catch up and adult. I (to my credit) began doing what most do when they turn 20: I started learning to be self-sufficient.

The issues we faced might not be the exact issues all newlyweds face.

Nonetheless, everyone has a reality to deal with once the honeymoon phase is over and the marriage begins. My advice to newlywed couples is to compromise. Talk to your spouse as opposed to at them and when it’s your turn, listen to what they are saying; don’t just hear the words. Marriage is hard work, but no one is going to do that work for you.

I am glad the honeymoon phase of my marriage ended when it did. The ensuing phase showed me my own strength and my husband’s compassion. I wear these as my battle armor when I face the world and its adversity. You can’t forever live on an all-paid-for hotel on a remote Maldivian island.

It’s nice, but after a while it gets boring.