Very Vegan Easter Weekend Mushroom & Leek Pie Recipe

Jesus is coming! Well, maybe not, but perhaps your family is coming and that is just as intimidating. Perhaps you’re feeling left out since for us vegans (or part-time vegans) roast lamb, chocolate bunnies, and jelly beans are not on the menu. Fear not! This delicious pie is the perfect addition to any Sunday lunch menu, and it’s just the thing to “resurrect” your holiday enthusiasm!

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Here’s what you need:

  • one large leek, chopped
  • one medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup raw whole cashews
  • 1 can of broad beans (AKA fava beans – no cianti needed!)
  • 320g sheet of puff pastry (pre-rolled if possible, larger if you want a bigger pie)
  • 1 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 heaping tbsp vegan bouillon powder or vegetable stock cube
  • 4 or 5 tbsp almond milk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • a bit of salt n’ pepper to season
  • a large skillet
  • vegan margarine or butter
  • a 9-inch pie tin
  • small mixing bowl
  • hand mixer or blender
  • bitty little cup
  • pastry brush

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350F)
  2. In a mixing bowl or blender combine 2 cups of water with 1 cup of cashews and blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Fry the onion and leeks in oil on low heat until soft.
  4. Add garlic and mushrooms and fry until juicy. Sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper but don’t “push it” – HA!
  5. Stir in 1 heaping tbsp of nutritional yeast and 1 tbsp of bouillon powder (or crumble a stock cube)

IMG_66066. Gently stir in cashew cream a little at a time. Remove from heat and let cool for a bit.

7. Roll out your pastry, but not too thin, maybe 2-3 cm. Cut about 1/3 off for the lattice and set the rest aside.

8. Slice the lattice into pieces, a little over 1/2 inch. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect as long as it’s not too thin.

IMG_66089. Grease the pie pan with margarine and line with the pastry.

10. Pour in the filling evenly.

11. The lattice: Don’t worry if it’s not a perfect basket weave, I’ve been very successful at faking it with the following method:

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Lay one lattice length-wise (vertical) and one width-wise (horizontal), like a cross.

 

Moving from the center outwards, alternate one horizontal and one vertical – one left side, one right side, etc)

 

12. if you want, you can use any leftover pastry bits for decoration. I made some dumb leaf thing, but if you really want to show off you can make it in the shape of a mushroom, but it might be misinterpreted and look like a penis. Lower the tone at your own risk!

13. When you finished laying the lattice down, pour some almond milk into your bitty little cup and brush over the pastry.

IMG_662014. Pop that bitch in the oven for about 25 – 30 minutes, checking it regularly. The crust won’t turn golden brown like it would when you use normal milk so you have to keep an eye on it.

15. Let cool for 15 – 20 min. Serve with steamed country vegetables, roast potatoes or fries, and a smug smile. You nailed it! (to the cross)

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10 essential questions about veganism

Sheepin' it real

Sheepin’ it real

Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely, positively, hate diets with a passion. I don’t own a weigh scale, and unless I have to start selling drugs to finance my designer shoe habit, I never will. It’s a bajillion dollar industry that the patriarchy uses to exploit the insecure and sell frozen dinners. There are only three acceptable reasons to go on a diet:

  1. Because a doctor has recommended it and has agreed to supervise you throughout.
  2. Because you are getting paid to do it, for example if you are an actress, model, athlete, or someone else who is paid to look a certain way or to have a specific physique — but even then, I’m talking five figures at least.
  3. Because you are engaged in a well-researched and carefully thought out experiment and/or change in lifestyle

A lot of people have asked what lead to this decision and what I plan to do moving forward, so I thought over the next month I would try to answer the most common questions I’ve been asked, and those I’ve asked myself! Here are the first ten:

1) What Does “Vegan” Actually mean?

A vegan is someone who abstains from using animal products in their daily lives. The philosophy itself is based on avoiding the use of animal products for ethical reasons, on the grounds that using animals is morally wrong, unsustainable, and damaging to the environment.

2) Why Vegan?

I love animals. I have had pets my whole life, and my affinity for animal prints has dominated my wardrobe, accessories, and home design. The rule is, if it’s leopard print, I have to have it. However, I always felt alienated by the animal welfare movement. I couldn’t imagine myself dressing up as a bunny and handcuffing myself to a fence outside a cosmetic lab in protest.

I was also put off by the use of emotional manipulation to further their cause. Seeing any animal suffering is heartbreaking to anyone with a heart to break in the first place, but it’s not necessarily enough to motivate someone to take action in a meaningful way. Also, at the risk of being cast out of the vegetarian community, I don’t actually believe that eating animals is morally wrong. Most people, particularly those living in poverty, don’t have the luxury of being selective about food. I couldn’t see the point of restricting my diet when I have access to a wide selection of organic meats and cheeses.

Then one day I randomly watched a documentary called Vegucated. It presented the vegan lifestyle in an entertaining, and well-reasoned way that was inclusive and compassionate rather than cold and condescending. I decided that it was worth doing some further research and asked a vegan friend and colleague for some more information.

The more I learned about farming practices and the meat industry, the less I could stomach the thought of eating animal products ever again. I learned that even organic dairy farms mistreat their animals , depriving them of access to pastures and pumping them full of nasty antibiotics and hormones. But it’s not my place, nor my desire to lecture you on inhumane practices in farming, so I will simply say that if you’d like to learn more, you can read this book, or watch this film, or visit this website.

3) What CAN you eat?

I’m not going to lie, this takes effort. Unless you are content to live off of frozen meat alternatives, which for the most part are tofu-cking awful, you have to commit to getting your Martha Stewart on and cook it yourself. My strategy at the moment is to create meat-free versions of the recipes I already enjoy. There are loads of resources out there for vegans who love eating, and I intend to be one of them. In fact, I’m posting my first tried-and-true recipe this week!

4) What about restaurants and dinner parties?

I have a more relaxed attitude toward this than many because I refuse to resign myself to eating spicy lentils at communal tables with hippies for the rest of my life. I haven’t been to a single restaurant that didn’t have something I could eat, even if it meant asking for pizza with no cheese. I haven’t been to a dinner party yet but my friends have teased me mercilessly throughout my life for things unrelated to food, so I don’t have a problem adding another thing to their list.

5) What does your boyfriend think?

“I just want a quiet life.” – Simeon

6) How will you get protein, iron, calcium, B12, and other vital nutrients?

I take iron + B12 supplements twice a day to be safe, but that’s no substitute for getting as much as possible through food. Dark green leafy vegetables, lentils, beans, and soy are all good shit.

7) Aren’t you starving?

I’m not nor have I ever been someone who eats for fuel, I absolutely love food, so I was worried about this. However, I actually feel fuller and more satisfied from each meal than I ever did before going vegan.

8) Do you feel different?

Yes yes yes. I have more energy, improved focus and concentration, and very few mood swings. The only thing that’s changed for the worse is my ability to sleep, but that could be due to my Netflix addiction rather than the change in my diet.

9) Have you lost weight?

No idea. My clothes still fit, so probably not.

10) How do you cope with cravings?

Being nice to myself. I have let one or two things slip, like not asking if there were eggs in a slice of cake I had on Sunday and not sending back pasta that had a tiny sprinkle of parmesan. I keep reminding myself that veganism in itself is an exercise in compassion, and if I’m not compassionate toward myself, it defeats the purpose.

Anyway, I’ll be back soon with the first of a series of delicious vegan recipes. Thanks for reading and if you have any more questions for me please email me at hexpatriate [at] gmail [dot] com or tweet me @hexpatriate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring cleaning 2014

Over the past few months I’ve taken some time out from blogging to have a think about what I’d like to write about going forward. This whole project began with a desire to communicate my feelings on depression and to empower those who couldn’t do that for themselves. It was a noble start, but as I am both vain and hopelessly prone to distraction, the blog evolved and took on many different forms — an advice column, a score sheet of bad dates, a hospital diary. At various points I have been so embarrassed by the content that I’ve deleted or made private months and months of material. But for worse or better, I never lied — except maybe about my breast size — and all the silly diversions were a real reflection of where I was at the time, both as a person and as a writer.

Since January, I wrote at least 10 different posts on several topics, but couldn’t bring myself to publish any of them. Regardless of the subject matter, tone, or quality, none of them felt appropriate, especially after all my grand New Years’ resolutions. Now that I have a brand new project, it seems as good a time as any to return to this blog in a more meaningful way. But first, an update:

Back in November, I ditched Klonopin and started decreasing my Seroquel (aka Quetiepene). Almost immediately, my quality of life changed dramatically. My sleep, energy levels, concentration, and memory were improving. Around the same time, I started meditating for just five minutes a day, and that seemed to make an even bigger difference. Rather than experiencing a brief spike in health and productivity, I had finally found a way to sustain it. With weekly therapy, regular exercise, healthy diet, and consistent meditation practice, I managed to enjoy almost five months of stability and good health. Sure, I had a few bad days here and there, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

When I was living my life as a slave to my ever-changing mood, I couldn’t really make a life for myself. My days were about survival. For about ten years, while my friends were going to university, forging their careers, having social lives, and building meaningful relationships, I was almost singularly focused trying to get out of bed before noon. It wasn’t until about two or three years ago that I could manage all my symptoms well enough to go beyond simple self-care.

In 2013 I finally got everything I wanted; career, friends, and a loving relationship. But I soon forgot how hard I had worked to get those things in the first place, and I got complacent. I actually managed to get by for a little while, but as soon as a problem came along, I was in big trouble. With adequate sleep, good nutrition, exercise, and meditation, a case of the flu would have put me out of commission for a few days, but without my foundation, I lost a whole week!

The lesson here is that I need to keep up the basics my routine no matter what, otherwise I leave myself vulnerable to getting dragged down by illness, fatigue, depression, or anything else. Of course, it’s impossible to control or predict what obstacles may come, but I can work on being prepared!

That’s probably enough for now, check back here for details on my new project, in which I switch to a vegan diet for 30 days!

 

 

 

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Revised and Updated: Goals for a Happy and Prosperous New Year

This week I’m revisiting a post from January 2013 to find out whether or not I’ve achieved my goals for last year AND which ones are worth taking forward. It’s a pretty long list, so without further ado, I present to you:

13 Goals for 2013: Revisited

1) take responsibility. I had a conversation with a friend about this yesterday. There is nothing more empowering than taking responsibility for your life. I spent many years convinced that bipolar disorder was running (and ruining) my life. I know how that feels, I really do, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Even when you feel like you don’t have any power, nothing—not even your crazy brain—can take away your freedom of choice. Embrace that.

There are a good number of decisions that I probably would not have made if I weren’t depressed or manic. Some people would say that you don’t have to feel accountable for decisions influenced by anxiety or depression, but I disagree. I think even in those situations you have to look for the lesson in each of those decisions, which is not the same as ruminating or beating yourself up over it. In my case I try to understand what I could have done differently in order to make a better or more responsible choice in the future.
This strategy is definitely worth carrying forward.

2) forgive myself. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I’ve done some things I’m not proud of. However, if my past is anything to go by, beating myself up only leads to even more bad decisions. Enough guilt, enough regret. Accept responsibility for what I’ve done, admit it if I fucked up, then move on.

I think this quote (paraphrased from something Jane Austen-y) says it all

“Let’s think on the past only as it gives us pleasure and on the future only as it gives us hope” —  great quote paraphrased from a Jane Austen thing on BBC1.

I don’t need to carry on with this one, I actually feel pretty good about myself now!

3) forgive others. I’m actually a very patient person, and I don’t hold grudges, but I do have reason to strongly dislike certain people. It doesn’t make me feel good, it doesn’t change my relationship with them, it doesn’t improve the situation. It’s so much more fun to laugh at them when they’re not looking. I never said I wanted to be perfect!

I still hate the same people I hated last year. The only difference is I think about them less often, so maybe that’s taken the edge off the hatred. I’m not going to carry this one forward because I don’t want to put any more energy into dealing with people I hate.

4) continue be grateful. I got an app on my phone that reminds me every day to write down what I’m grateful for, and it’s awesome. Sometimes I forget, and sometimes I don’t feel ‘grateful’ for anything, but it forces me out of whatever I’m doing and makes me smile, because even on my worst day, I have a lot to be thankful for. 

I love that I started doing this but I need to set an alarm or something because I keep forgetting. Definitely one to take forward.

5) take care of the body. I’m not going to preach to you about exercise, especially this time of year, but I am going to continue to maintain the exercise routine that has improved my mind, body, and soul in the past year.

I started running this year, but I need to do much more to get back on track. For me, exercise isn’t about fitness or keeping slim, it really is therapy for depression and anxiety. I have to start treating this like medicine!

6) take care of the mind. I can’t stress this enough. The only way to cope with mental illness is by managing it. If you don’t have time to be sick, you must make time to be well. Easier said than done? Of course! It took me ten years to even begin to figure it out, but friends, if I can do it, you can, too! seriously.

I dedicated quite a lot of time to my mental health this year and I still managed to have a rather spectacular breakdown (or two), but I’m optimistic. I’m not expecting miracles in 2014 but it would be great if I could become better at managing my symptoms.

7) learn to love to cook as much as I love to eat. As you may know, I catered a film shoot without really knowing how to cook. It was actually a great feeling to cook for others, but I haven’t done much cooking since then. It’s a slightly depressing thought now that I’m on my own, but I think learning a new skill is always a good thing. Anybody have a spare dishwasher?

I still don’t really know how to cook but I made incredible pork chops last month which I think made up for the rest of the year. This year I’d like to try more new recipes and cut down on takeout.

8) face my fears. In 2012 I confronted a lot of my fears and overcame obstacles that I had allowed to hold me back for years. I intend to continue challenging myself personally and professionally, and l resolve to look for opportunities and solutions rather than build barriers to my success.

Hmm. This still proves to be a rather sticky wicket. I’m still working on it but I haven’t had any real breakthroughs yet.

9) insist that others treat me with respect. I am no longer going to make myself vulnerable in a way that encourages others to take advantage of me or disrespect me. This means saying “no” more often, standing up for myself, and refusing to be a victim.

This is really tough. I still find it hard to talk to other people or to express my needs effectively when I’m depressed or stressed.

10) improve communication with friends and family. I am extremely lucky to have great relationships with friends in different parts of the world. I suffered a lot last year because I didn’t ask for help when I needed it. I want to be a more supportive friend to the people I care about and I want to be able to draw on their strength in order to help myself.

I think I’ve done really well with this one, actually. I don’t think it’s ever going to be easy to be away from my American family and friends, but technology has given me lots of ways to communicate with them, and for that I’m grateful! I just need air travel to become more effective and less horrifying…

11) learn to love myself. Despite being far down on the list, this is a top priority. I have struggled with this my entire life. This year I don’t want my self-worth or self-esteem to be determined by what other people think or feel about me. I want to feel from within that beautiful, strong, and loveable, no matter what. 

I think the most significant shift in my attitude toward myself came when I decided that who I am right now is good enough, and that I don’t have to do anything or be anything in order to be loved. Of course there’s room for improvement and I want to continue to grow as a person but I no longer feel like my self-worth is tied up in who I want to be rather than who I am. This took almost a year of telling myself over and over again before I finally believed it, but when I did my whole life changed.

12) be honest. With myself and others. I’m going to listen more, write more, and talk more.

I talk way too much.

13) heal. I know that this is the last item on the list but it is actually a top priority. As a result of the breakdown of my relationship, I’m going through a lot and it’s very painful. I will do whatever it takes to heal and carry on with my life.

…and I did! What a difference a year makes, eh?

And here are my Goals for 2014:

  • exercise more often and more effectively
  • be grateful
  • learn at least one new recipe each month
  • update the blog at least twice per month
  • talk less, listen more
  • actively pursue creative and artistic forms of self-expression
  • practice compassion, meditation, and mindfulness each day
  • get a little teeny tiny bit more organised/organized

Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy 2014.

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All American Reunion

Last week as part of our regularly scheduled  review of the glorious cinematic treasures the Sky NOW box has to offer, my boyfriend and I watched American Reunion. If you haven’t yet had the privilege of taking in this grand achievement of modern cinema, this installment in the franchise—preceded by American Pie (1999), American Pie 2 (2001), American Wedding (2003), and I Guess These Guys Will Never Get Another Job—revisits the original cast thirteen years after graduating from high school. We join three nice Jewish boys who are sort of all the same, a handsome lacrosse player whose photo I may or may not have kept in my locker in 8th grade, and their  jailbait-chasing friend whose undisclosed head trauma has evidently rendered him incapable of using phrases that don’t end in “fuck” or “pussy”.

Together Flabby, Beardy, Sulky, Sporty, and Jock share in each others’ grief over the death of their golden age of bro-hood. With plaintive stares, they watch nubile young ladies prance upon the shores of their neighbo[u]rhood lakeside retreat. It was here that many a fervent fantasy was made real between the warm, sticky sheets of summers gone. They march along to the reunion to a bittersweet dirge, choking on failure and regret.

When I went back to Bethesda two weeks ago, I heard about my own high school reunion which is set to take place next week. Even though I knew I couldn’t attend, I felt a surge of fear, sadness, anger, and regret. I thought about how miserable I was back then, how I struggled with the humiliating side effects of meds, and how badly I wanted to fit in with everyone else. In fact, the first draft of this post was a big laundry list of complaints about things that happened ten years ago. And although it was very long, something changed after I wrote it that made it possible for me to delete the whole thing.

As I read through my grand list of what went wrong in high school, I began to feel further and further away from it. I stopped identifying with young Michelle’s anger and started to view it from a distance and with a strong sense of compassion. Yes, it’s a shame that I had such a hard time, but I’m better now. I live in a great city with my wonderful boyfriend. I have an amazing job and lots of friends. It’s understandable that I left high school feeling like I had something to prove, but I know now that I don’t need anyone’s approval. I’m living now, today, for me.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from Blobby and his mates it’s that life doesn’t end after high school, it’s only the beginning. In fact, your life will have lots of beginnings and ends, but the beauty of it is that you can make a lot of those decisions yourself, and if you can’t, you can at least choose how you respond.

…and it definitely doesn’t hurt to live well. Just sayin!

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Fear and Loathing at Dulles Airport

I had to come back to Bethesda last week due to a family emergency. Everyone is fine, thanks, so I’m flying back tonight, but I have been dreading this flight ever since I arrived. I wish I could shake it but I can’t seem to move past a constant base level of anxiety even though I know everything is going to be fine. It’s that specter of a panic attack that gets me; the worry that somehow being on a plane will trigger a very messy meltdown that will end with me cuffed to the air marshall after running around the cabin screaming, foaming at the mouth and chewing on a fork.

I suppose you’re wondering what I’ve been up to after all this time and why I haven’t posted in a while. The biggest development is that I stopped taking klonopin. I used it for over ten years to combat anxiety and insomnia. It worked very well, but ultimately the risks outweighed the benefits. Waking up early was damn near impossible and even if I could manage to get out of bed before 9am I had to cope with what I call a “sleep hangover” until about midday, and that’s after a generous serving of espresso.  The withdrawal period was mercifully short and I’ve already experienced better sleep and major improvements to my memory, concentration, and wakefulness.

The downside to dumping the klon is that my overall anxiety is harder to manage than it was before, and although I’m confident that my new therapist will help me develop the coping skills I need, at the moment I’m having a really hard time, which is way I haven’t updated this blog!

I’d better go saddle up for what will undoubtedly be the most overly hyped non-terrifying flight of my life. Wish me luck and let’s all hope the Xanax kicks in with plenty of time to spare.

Bethesda, it’s been a pleasure as always. See you next summer!

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Knowing Me, Knowing Blue

This post has been a long time coming, and it’s no accident, friends.I haven’t written in all this time because I’ve struggled to admit to anyone that although life couldn’t be better, I have been feeling low overall with moments of complete and utter misery. The six weeks have gone at breakneck speed. I’ve moved house, started an awesome new job, proudly watched my partner start med school, gone on my first two business trips, and attended the absolutely beautiful wedding of two very good friends (and I’ve just found out I have another wedding to look forward to!) . Life is bigger, better, and brighter than ever….and I’m still depressed.

I think the most incredible thing about this illness—in my experience, at least—is that no matter what, where, when, or how, each depressive phase feels every bit as horrible as the last one. Worse still, is that despite the fact that I’ve been through this before and I’ve come out of it, I still feel like this will never end. And I’ve got nothing new to say! I haven’t posted anything new because it just feels like the same shit all over again, and again, and again. Knowing me, Michelle, knowing you, Depression.

Aha.

 

 

 

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Midsummer Madness

I spent last Friday afternoon at the Camden Job Centre, one of the most depressing places I’ve ever seen, which is saying a lot because I’ve been to both the UKBA building in Croydon and an un-airconditioned sexual health clinic in the midst of a heat wave. I was not at all surprised to discover that despite the fact that I was advised to simply bring a proof of address and my passport, I was in for a lot of annoying and seemingly irrelevant questions.

The Job Centre Lady (JCL) began by skimming through my passport. “When was the first time you entered the UK?” she asked, raising a speculative eyebrow. My eyes rolled into the back of my skull. No matter how many times I present the document that unequivocally states that I have the right to live in the United Kingdom FOREVER, government employees are invariably confused by my passport. Considering the fact that  98% of the stamps are really half-faded runes chicken-scratched onto completely random pages, I can sympathise to some extent, however I don’t know how many more times I can cope with having to pinpoint the precise dates and locations of every single trip I’ve taken since 2006.

The job search is hard work. With all the cover letters to write and applications to fill out, I end up spending most of the day working away at the computer. That’s not to say that I don’t have other projects percolatin’ but I need to find something steady at least part-time…said my entire generation. ::SIGH::

In other news, I unceremoniously finished my program at Ye Olde Mental Hospital (hold your applause until the end, please), with promises to return, continue my one-to-one therapy and share my experience with patients and their families. It felt like the right time to leave, so I wasn’t too sentimental over it. I think that deserves its own post, which is on its way. I think I need a few more days, or even weeks to put it all together and make a proper assessment. Laughter, tears, anger, fears…I feel a haiku coming on. JOKING.

Real Talk. The Lady of the Pet Shoppe (who is wise and has lived through many of life’s joys and sorrows)  told me that when you reach a certain age you look back at all the little things you worried about through the years and you wonder how you could have ever have doubted that everything would turn out for the best…because generally, it does.

Enjoy yer Bank Holiday weekend, Britons!

X

H

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Letter to 17-year-old Me

Hey! Back from vacation, it was incredible, photos on the way as soon as I can find that damn USB cable. Anyway, today I’m posting something inspired by a session yesterday at Ye Olde Mental Hospital-on-Thames. Enjoy (or don’t, it may be too specific)

Dear 17-year-old Me,

Greetings and salutations from eleven years into the future! I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is you didn’t arrive at our high school reunion via private helicopter to graciously pose for photos and sign autographs. You haven’t had your big break yet, but I am working on it and I have no intention of giving up. Although you have yet to earn your star on Hollywood Boulevard, you have a lot in life to be grateful for, and so much to look forward to. I don’t want to give away all of the surprises, so I’ll give you some advice instead (with perhaps a few minor spoilers thrown in).

The illness you have will become your best teacher. You will gain the wisdom, compassion, awareness, and emotional intelligence to carry you through all the hard times. Though you will hit rock bottom, you will bounce back every time. Try not to perceive these low points as “setbacks”, even when one bout of depression is worse than the last. This disease comes in cycles, but in the bigger picture it’s a like spiral moving forward, not downward.

Lots of men will tell you how pretty you are. Don’t follow each one to a second location. Just like in your teens, you will continue to attract users, losers, and abusers. Though they will drain you emotionally, physically, and in some cases financially, you will still approach each of these relationships with the optimism and fervent hope that you can “fix” them. What you fail to see now is that you are worthy of the same love and understanding that you offer these jerks, even when they take everything and give you nothing in return. Here’s the big secret: Being loved is not something you have to work for, you deserve it just for being you.

The good news is that although you will spend years kissing these proverbial frogs and chasing men who are all wrong for you, you will meet the love of your life, and the timing will be perfect.

Be patient. The one thing you can rely on in your life—apart from the support of your friends and family—is that nothing will turn out exactly the way you expect it to, so there’s no use obsessing over where you’re going or how long it’s going to take. You are on the right path, even when you make a mistake. When you hit a dead end, back up and start off in a new direction.

Finally, talk less, listen more. Your greatest friendships will be built on your ability to lend a sympathetic ear.

With Love,

28-year-old You/Me/Us

PS – Avoid Atlantic City.

Now over to you, friends. If you had one piece of advice to give your 17-year-old self, what would it be?

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Essential Travel Tips for the Highly Anxious and Chronically Disorganized

I’m currently on my second vacation in five years (not counting going home for christmas) and I’m proud to say that despite my near paralysing anxiety, I made it across the Atlantic and over to paradise painlessly and trauma-free. I haven’t quite fully switched into vacation mode so I thought whilst I’m still in the process of unwinding I’d hit you with some smart travel advice, straight from my personal experience.

1) Pack your medication. I can’t overstate this enough. Bring an extra week’s worth in case you get delayed. If possible, pack the extra supply in a separate piece of luggage or split it evenly into two bags. Some punk stole my purse on a train coming back from NYC and I had to get everything replaced! It’s not something you want to have to worry about so please count it three times before you pack it and then have a friend count it four more times before you set off on your journey.

2) Make Lists. This time I made a master schedule three days before my trip, which included all appointments, social engagements, and chores that needed doing. I also kept a list of worries and anxieties—no matter how silly or irrational—just so that I wouldn’t have them rattling around in my head all day. Once you have everything in writing, try to manage your time so that you have as little to do as possible on the day you travel so you can get to the airport on time.

3) Bring your own entertainment. Even on a long haul flight, it’s worth loading up movies, tv shows, games, books, and music onto your ipad or tablet. Bring some paperbacks, too, because books smell nice and you might get a headache from staring at screens for too long. Don’t be too ambitious with your reading list, though. When my brain is on vacation, I stock up on the literary equivalent of made-for-tv movies and two books that aren’t necessarily about a hardened city gal returning to her sleepy New England hometown where she must unearth painful memories and learn to love again. But  is her well-meaning childhood sweetheart really just a friend? (spoiler alert: probably not. He was the one who threw Billy off the side of the boat!) Magazines are essential for any journey, but be sure to top up your pile of tabloids with any left-leaning bastion of elitism (I prefer The New Yorker) so you can hold a serious conversation and know what your opinion should be on all current affairs!

4) Be Kind to Yourself. Trying to fight nervousness, stress, and anxiety is more exhausting than just accepting it.  The less you attach to them the easier they are to manage. Meditation is a great way to observe your worries and unwanted thoughts rather than engaging and identifying with them. I personally need sedatives to manage my anxiety when I fly (ain’t no shame in it!), but practicing meditation to the best of my ability really, really helps. If you are taking sedatives, please don’t drink alcohol because the interaction is dangerous. You are not Lucille Bluth, and that sleepy eye on the prescription bottle is not winking at you!

I hope this helps and that you all have at least one nice break this summer. Bon Voyage!

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