A Fortress of Peace

As a way to cope with my anxiety, I use visualization.

I usually have the most trouble with anxiety at bedtime so I close my eyes and picture a childhood treehouse that my best friend and I built.

When we were twelve, we found an old Folgers Coffee can full of nails in my friend’s garage and began playing with her Dad’s scrap-pile of wood. Then, we started nailing pieces of wood to the side of a tree so that we could climb it like a staircase, (or in our minds the mast of a ship). Then we realized that by nailing three boards between three trees we could build a platform, and that was the start of our two-story treehouse that boasted four platforms and two bridges. (We had help securing the bridges.)

We rummaged through old leftover paint and was granted permission to paint our floating fortress Robin’s egg blue and pastel purple.

In our imagination, that fort was a pirate ship, a mansion, a castle, and anything we needed/wanted it to be that day. I didn’t know then that I was creating a safe place for myself in the future.

Do we ever realize how vital moments are until they turn into memories?

There is one memory of the tree house in-particular that I often grasp and weave into the tapestry of my visualization. One morning before school, my friend and I decided to wake up early and eat breakfast in our treehouse as the sun came up. It was early spring, our clouds of breath were evidence that a chill still lingered in the morning. We took our bowl of Fruit Loops and sat on the highest platform, eating our cereal in the light of our flashlights. Arms and chests leaning on the safety railingwe rejoiced as the sun came up, turning the sky electric pink. The rushing river nearby roared in our ears. We sat there in silence for a long time. My parent’s recent divorce faded to the back of my mind and everything felt bearable in my life.

Maybe that place made me feel invincible because my friend and I built it almost entirely on our own. Or it’s the fact that our treehouse had no walls, which was why it was freedom. Where the magic came from really doesn’t matter, that tree house allowed me to escape, and still  helps me cope with anxiety.

-Rachel McKee

Do you have a method to deal with stress or a memory you turn to for comfort? Please comment below.

Four Things That Scare Me While Writing A Novel

As I close in on 20,000 words for my YA novel, I keep hitting the same anxiety hurdles:

  • What if I don’t finish?
  • Will I like my story when I finish?
  • What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?
  • What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?

These four questions swarm my head like flies buzzing around a overly-ripe melon. I’m constantly swatting at them as I write. Sometimes the questions become too much and I have to stand up and walk away from the keyboard, away from my doubt, and away from the swarm.

Combating the fear

I’ve always been a worrier, even as a child I would literally worry myself sick and give myself stomach aches. My mom would soothe me by asking,

“What is the VERY worst thing that could happen in the scenario that you are dwelling on? Discover what is in your control and the factors that are left to fate.”

So taking my mother’s advice, I decided to list my fears and examine the worst-case scenario for each.

What if I don’t finish?

Completion is entirely up to me. I have ultimate control on whether or not I finish this story, unless I die before it’s completed, but hey at that point i won’t care anymore. In order to finish I just have to get past my fears and procrastination.

When I rationalize this part of my anxiety, it’s really quite stupid. So, moving on…

Will I like my story when it’s finished?

What I’m really afraid of, or the “worst case scenario” is that I will finish it and then abandon it because I’m tired of it. What if the completed story is a cheap re-print vs. the original masterpiece I created in my head? (I’m abusing the word masterpiece here.) The mountain of edits and rewrites is daunting, and I don’t know if I will have the motivation to summit that mountain.

But again, I can control the outcome, I just have to battle the same demons above: fear and procrastination.

What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?

Now we are getting to the festering part of my anxiety. This is where panic sets in and my manuscript is about to brutality end because my fears strangle my creative voice.

So I put a ton of time, energy, and heart into my story. I complete a solid draft and edit until I can’t edit anymore. I line up my list of book agents and publishing companies and write a snazzy cover-letter, attach my manuscript, hit “Send”, and nothing.

I don’t hear back. I don’t even know why my book was rejected.

Months go by, and I open my story again. The malleable story I thought I was sending out into the agent/publishing world to be critiqued, re-shaped, perfected, but nobody wants to work with my little fledgling story.

Where did I go wrong? What do I change?

This question breeds more questions and anxiety. This is a scenario where outside factors play a role in achieving my dream.

What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?

Again, I complete my draft, pay multiple editors to review my book for grammar, structure, and flow. I pay someone to publish my manuscript, now I have time AND money invested in my story.

Then nobody buys my book. Or maybe a few people do and it gets horrible reviews. I literally paid to have my dreams crushed.

Pretty dismal right?

So how do I combat my fear?

When I start to panic and drown in a sea of self-doubt I remember this quote:

 

professional-writer-quote

 

I also remember what my mother would ask me, how much can I control? I realize that I can control most of the fate of my book. I may get rejected from my top choice of agents and publishing companies, but if I keep re-writing eventually someone will want to work with me. Or I can take my chances self-publishing and be content knowing that my loved-ones will read and enjoy my book (simply because I wrote it and they are biased). Neither of these outcomes are terrible, and most importantly by writing this novel, I am becoming a better writer.

What do you do to combat your fear of failure? Please answer by commenting below.

♥R♥

 

The Stupid Girl

Disclaimer to all readers: Please don’t read this article as me casting my emotional rod into the internet ocean for compliments. This narcissistic issue starts and ends with me.

“I am stupid.” I say this to myself often throughout the day. I whisper it to myself in the bathroom at work after I ask an obvious question to my co-workers. Every day when I leave the office, I think to myself, “I am the weakest link on my team.” Hell, I would vote myself off in most team situations. I inhale the word idiot and exhale in a rush of anxiety when someone asks me for directions within the town I reside. How do I explain that I can’t remember street names that I drive on daily? When people talk about North, South, East, and West they may as well be speaking a foreign language. My family has had to deal with more directional hysterics from me than anyone should have to in a lifetime. I thank God daily for their patience.

I think my stupidity complex started in elementary school when my class began learning multiplication. My teacher created a pyramid to chart the basic 0-12 multiplication table. Well let me tell you I was no Pharaoh of THAT pyramid. My peers started to progress, but I always stayed at the bottom. I think I got through the 2’s (2×2 =4, 2×3=6, etc.) and just stopped. For months I sat in shame at the bottom of that pyramid while I watched other children receive treats for their success. It was not the rewards that I coveted, my parents were generous people, I didn’t want for much growing up. I wanted to be equal with my peers, but I was always behind.

I hated sitting in class where the whispered words “You’re stupid.” echoed throughout my mind and bounced around the walls. School was my mirror, where I had to face the part of myself I desperately loathed. In high school I graduated with a 2.0 GPA, a courtesy from teachers who desperately wanted to see me succeed. Even living through the trauma of K-12, I decided to attend community college. The decision was due to my best friend applying. I thought, “I guess college is the thing to do”.

After my first quarter at community college which felt like a flash back to the nightmare of K-12 (Pre-reqs are the worst!) I began to look forward to class. I found a passion for learning aside from the anxiety of everyone finding out just how stupid I really was. I devoured the content of each class. I knew that my work was weak so I made up for it in participation. I volunteered my ass off. If the teacher asked a question, I was the first to answer. Extra credit, I was all over it. My GPA went from a 2.0 in high school to a 3.7 upon graduation from Western Washington University.

My time at WWU was a chaotic, wonderful, crazy time in my life. I was working two jobs and completely immersed in my English literature degree. I was finding my way and learning who the “adult Rachel” was. I had my setbacks as well though. For example, I remember being in a study group for a 400 level English class. I was with two very intelligent classmates (the Sheldon and Leonard of the English world) and I told them I felt bad because I wasn’t helping much with the assignment, they were just flat out faster than me. But in good humor they joked that I provided the tea and the study space at my apartment. I cried that night, all of my old anxieties and worries rushing back at me. The echo of “I’m stupid, I’m stupid, I’m stupid” was an earthquake inside my dark bedroom.  The next morning the emotional disaster that was my ego followed me onto the bus. I went to class with a residual “Stupid“.

Time reveals the magic of our past, hidden behind the black curtain of the present.

All of my life I had teachers and parents who believed in me. They were showing me their faith in a variety of ways. My 3rd grade teacher had me read one of my stories out loud to three other classes. My math teacher Mr. Sessions gave me extra assignments so I could graduate from high school. Upon graduation day he gave me a dream catcher that he made himself. My Dad paid for my first two years of college out-of-pocket, with only a 2.0 GPA from high school backing up my scholarly reputation. My Mom and step father let me live at home for four years after high school. They spent hours every week helping me with homework. None of those people would have gone to such effort if they did not see any potential in me. I will never forget how I almost fell to the floor when one of my classmates introduced me to his reading group as one of the most insightful, intelligent people in our class. That compliment was a cast for my broken confidence that was beaten down by yours truly.

I can look back now and appreciate my academic achievements; I can attribute graduating to not floating by on participation and extra credit. I looked like an idiot (often) and I survived. I hope sometime in the future I will look at this time in my life and realize that: I was good at my job. My novel was decent. I should listen to my husband when he patiently tells me that I am, in fact, an intelligent woman. Maybe one day I will realize that I am not the only driver in a constant state of lost. Tomorrow I will look in the mirror and tell myself, “You are not the stupid girl.”

Scents and Scentsibility

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Three books at once; I am quite the promiscuous reader.

I decided to splurge and get a facial for my birthday in August. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the spa was the amazing smell that permeated throughout every room.There is something about natural oils that can invigorate and soothe you at the same time.

On the other hand, have you ever walked into someone’s home and it’s like walking into a Bath and Body Works (guilty)? Where you smack into a wall of perfume and smoke. While it smells amazing it can give you a headache or make you feel nauseous depending on the scent. Don’t get me wrong, I love my citrus summer, and fall pumpkin spice candles as much as the next girl, but when I am trying to read and relax I want the spa experience.

I started researching the benefits of essential oils and found some really interesting information on Web MD: Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes. “The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods. says ion researcher Michael Terman, PhD, of Columbia University in New York… In fact, Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants.” – Web MD

Negative ions are abundant in nature. For example, a water fall produces 50,000 Ions/cc, the country 700-1,500 Ions/cc, and mountain/seashore 5,000 ions/cc. While an air condition room has fewer negative ions 0-25 ions/cc (doTERRA manual). The negative ions upon reaching our blood stream increases our serotonin and help immensely with our mood.

I searched Amazon and read many blogs for the best product to dispense natural oils and I found  a few different options:

  • Tea lite diffusers (burn the oil)
  • Plug in diffusers
  • Fan diffuser
  • Nebulizer
  • Ultrasonic mist diffuser

I decided on a ultrasonic mist diffuser: doTERRA the Aroma Lite Diffuser, because it adequately dispenses the oil and there is no smoke to inhale. I chose two oils from doTERRA: Purify (lemon, lime, pine, citronella, melaleuca, cilantro) and Citrus Bliss (Wild Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, Grapefruit Peel, Mandarin Peel, Bergamot Peel, Tangerine Peel, Clementine Peel essential oils and Vanilla Bean Absolute.)

.DSC_0292I plug in my diffuser every evening when I get home from work. I use the 8 hour setting (there is also a four hour setting) so that it runs for a few hours before we settle in at night. The diffuser is very quiet (and trust me I am a light, finicky sleeper) so we let it run while we sleep. The soft purple glow is very soothing, but I turn the light off because I can’t sleep with any light. Both scents are lovely, but the Purify has a much stronger smell than the Citrus Bliss and I tend to gravitate towards it for that reason. Follow the essential oil use chart to choose which oils work best for you.

I love to have the diffuser on while I am reading and writing. I am prone to anxiety and sometimes this hinders my ability to write. The smell helps me to relax and quiets my mind from the chaos that typically ensues after work. I don’t think this diffuser will be my “end all” for my anxiety, but if it helps in the slightest (and I truly believe it has) then it is worth every penny.

Here are some more links about the health benefits of essential oils. I chose to write mostly about the positive effect it has on my mood because that is the main benefit I have received.

9 Essential Oils with Huge Health Benefits

Benefits of Essential Oils: 10 Natural Ways to Heal Yourself