One year since starting the blog, I’m in Brazil continuing on a journey of self discovery.

I’ve been known to put a lot of emphasis on milestone events in the past, so what better way to celebrate the one year anniversary of the blog than by spending some time in a faraway location, taking a second to acknowledge everything that has happened over the last 365 days, and exploring a culture completely different to the comfortable bubble I grew used to in Cape Town.

At the moment, I’m in Alfenas, a small town in the South of Brazil, with a population of around 70 000 people. The townsfolk are calm and timid bunch, community oriented, and I enjoy the energy here. Foreigner stares aside, I have felt very welcome here, and also, have learned just how far I still have to go with my Portuguese lessons. I think I realised I wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped when I didn’t understand much while people around me in the boarding queue at the airport were talking to each other. I made it to Brazil regardless, which is good!

Last week, I took the week off from work, in order to explore São Paulo (which is massive, and features some of the most intense traffic jams you will ever see in your life), as well as some of the other towns in the Minas Gerais area. One of these towns, Varginha is renowned for its alien sightings, even going as far as showcasing a “UFO” (like, a real life one, you would expect to see in a Hollywood movie) in their city centre. I snapped a quick pic and had a good chuckle at this. I’ve heard it only took two people to see the alien for it to become a thing, and who am I to question this?

In fact, I’ve experienced quite a few extraordinary things while being here, like spending time in a public university library exploring local literature, visiting an art exhibition for one of Brazil’s most famous contemporary artists, as well as having dinner at a bakery (strange to think about, I know) that serves the most delicious treats you can imagine and sells them off as meals. I’m trying all kinds of interesting local cuisine, thanks to my partner (a Brazilian native), who I am travelling with at the moment, and of course, I’m having a cappuccino wherever I can. This is part of a personal mission explore the myth around Brazil having the best coffee in the world. So far, so good. I particularly love that they enjoying adding chocolate and cinnamon to their cappuccino’s, which is something I want to start doing when I make coffee at home.

Caffeine aside, I recently also got to experience to most incredible bookstore I have ever been in, which featured different sections, each with a unique ambiance (the art section, for example had a unique feeling, when compared with the history section, not only based on how the books were cataloged, but also in terms of the music they play in the section and how you experience the particular part of the store). I loved this, and found myself particularly impressed with the fact that the store featured so many local writers, which is not something you would traditionally find back home in South Africa. Brazil is a nation of great cultural diversity, with writers from many different backgrounds, so I am curious to know more. I’m particularly enjoying learning more about Clarice Lispector, an early 1900’s writer, who is very well known across the country.

This week, I’m doing a little less traveling, in order to focus a bit more on work, finishing up a new episode of the podcast, and naturally I’m doing a lot of writing (I’m already a few poems down, and have picked the title for my next anthology, launching in July). I think it’s a good idea to take it a bit more easy this week, as in the past ten days, I’ve covered over 10 000km between car trips, flights, Ubers, bus trips and walking. It’s certainly been a memorable journey so far, and I’m keeping an open mind about the next 10 000.

– Conrad was here.

I’m hosting a brand new lifestyle podcast, and of course it has a cheeky title! Happy to finally share some details with you.

It’s been five years since I did my last radio show, but I’m thrilled to get behind the mic again, hosting Wellness with the Schwellnus, a brand new lifestyle podcast launching on Spotify on Thursday the 25th of April.

The show, which will be exclusive to Spotify for 24 hours, will be syndicated to other streaming platforms from Friday the 26th, and will air twice a month on the second and fourth Thursday of each month, until April 2020. Episodes, which have a minimum of three segments, are anywhere between 45 and 60 minutes long. I’m really excited to be collaborating with indie publishing house CSP on this project, and I’m grateful to have had their support right from the get go.

In recent weeks I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the content I’ll be covering, most of which I’ve been avoiding answering, as I want listeners to be surprised, and to make up their own minds about what the podcast is going to mean to them. If you recall, this very blog started as a mental health awareness journal, and has since transformed into a space for me to share my flow journey, and even to publish some of my poetry. The process for the show is equally flexible and fluid, but as a whole, it aspires to promote mindful living.

What I can reveal today, is that the first episode contains more information about my journey so far, delves into what led me to the point of pursuing a full-time career as a writer, and I may or may not have decided to include some details about 3 year old me (as written down from a reliable source: a report card, signed my my pre-school teacher). Oh Mrs. whats-her-name, you had a profound impact on my life after all.

The show aims to bring some lightness, humor and inspiration to your week. I’ll be sharing a couple of stories that have had an effect on my life so far, checking in on interesting current events, as well as throwing in tidbits from my personal journals. If you’re worried that you’ll grow tired of my voice, don’t fret, I’ll also be introducing interview segments in the near future, discussing topics with a variety of interesting guests (there is already a list of twenty people that I’m dying to sit down with) and in the process hope to learn more about what it means to live well and satisfied with a view towards the future.

Hopefully, the podcast will give me more opportunities to be able to connect with you, wherever you are in the world, which, as you know if you’ve been following the blog, is one of my most important goals for the year. From June, I’ll be recording episodes from Brazil, and after that, who knows where the road goes. I look forward to taking it step-by-step and going on this journey with you! Thank you for your support.

– Conrad was here.

Embarking on a 50 day challenge to start healing my tricky relationship with food.

I’ve always had a tricky relationship with food — it’s usually been more of an emotional crutch, because I’ve never really learned how to cook and usually tend to go for more efficient food options, rather than making the most nutritious choices.

If it was up to me, I’d swallow a pill every morning that would give me all the nutrition I need in one go, but I’ve recently become more aware of how much food brings people together, creates joy, and is at the heart of communities around the world. Considering my plans to travel for the rest of the year, I’d love to be able to explore more types of foods and traditional dishes from cultures other than my own and it’s time to get out of my comfort zone a bit.

Tomorrow, I’m starting a 50 day personal challenge to start working on adjusting (or healing) my relationship with food. My goal is to reconnect with food as a source of nourishment, something to enjoy and quite frankly, to be grateful for.

I stumbled onto a TedTalk about this topic after doing a basic Google search earlier today and I was happy to find out that I’m not alone in the struggle. The talk was hosted by dietitian Eve Lahijani, and included the following tips, which I’ve tweaked slightly to fit my lifestyle, and incorporated into the challenge:

  • Reconnect with your hunger. Eat only when you’re hungry, not out of boredom, stress, or just because it is available. Do so when you first get hungry, not when you’re already ravenous.
  • Feed what your body is craving. Go with your instincts about what your body is asking for, which requires you to tune into your feelings. I think this will be particularly useful to me during my morning meditations.
  • Try not to use food as a reward or punishment. I’m a pro at this, and will need to be extra mindful of this. Mostly, my rewards are sugar heavy and I’ve gone down the sugar rabbit hole far too many times for my own liking.
  • Don’t punish yourself for bad days. It happens, carry on.

Over and above this, I also have two additional resources in my corner that found their way to me today, which I’ll also be incorporating into the challenge.

The first, is the latest episode of the Spiritual Gayz podcast. Angel and Brandon discuss the importance of ritual, and especially so when you’re working on healing some or other aspect of yourself. From listening to the show, I’ve decided to work a small mantra into my morning routine, a ritual of sorts, where I’ll start my morning with a simple sentence: commit to feeding yourself with love today. It’s as simple as that.

The final resource I’ll be utilizing along this journey, is a Masterclass I found today, which is hosted by Thomas Keller. From just the first lecture, it’s clear that he will be delving into the very basics of cooking, even to the point of discussing which kitchen utensils are best to use and how to prepare before you even start preparing a meal. It’s very clear to me that I need this in my life! I’ve decided I’ll be doing one class a day for the next month and I believe it’s also a nice way to easy myself into it, soaking up each lesson and practicing some of the lessons, rather than binging them all in a single sitting.

As I mentioned at the start of the article, I have never learned how to cook, and have always had a “get it done and move on” attitude towards my own nourishment, but perhaps, as part of my self care journey, and just generally wanting to lead a more healthy lifestyle, which protects the one body I’ve been gifted with to live this life through, it’s time for me to take my relationship with food to a new level. Today brought me a couple of signs and I’m excited to see what the challenge does to my energy levels, mental health and frankly put, my general enjoyment when it comes to food.

I’ll be sure to document some of the journey on the blog, and feel free to get in touch if you have any tips, suggestions or resources. The challenge will wrap up on June 1st, and I’ll be sure to share my results and learnings with you on the blog, so stick around for that over the next couple of weeks.

– Conrad was here.

Rest easy, beautiful. You’ve left a lesson or two behind.

I recently entered my first writing competition, hosted by Writing Tips. They share writing tips every day to an audience of over 40 000 followers and their goal is to help fellow writers like myself out with various nuggets of advice. I wanted to share my entry with you today. The challenge was to submit something based on a single keyword: adrenaline. This was the first English poem I wrote this year, so it’s extra special to me in that sense as well. I’d love to hear from you if it evokes any kind of reaction or feeling in you.

I’ve written a poem, inspired by music legend Whitney Houston. Her life had so many ups and downs, her career was truly adrenaline filled, but when you dig a little deeper, there is an innocence to who she really was. The poem is a eulogy of sorts, which I was inspired to write after learning more about her life in a documentary.

It reminded me that we’re all human, with our own dreams and wishes, and that success doesn’t always guarantee personal fulfilment. I hope you enjoy it.

“Roaming”
by Conrad Schwellnus

She wandered the earth, an angel,
Broken by a spirit of trust —
Commanding the masses,
But carry her family, she absolutely must.

In her meandering, she fumbles, she’s done —
But where were the coin smugglers in your troubled days?
I weep for you, Ms. Houston, roaming even in death,
A legacy of a ghost, but a human being like the rest.

Sing for me Nippy, lament the pop monster —
When did the people start to let you down?
Did you need to be held, need to be fed —
Your emotions on fire, sacrificed for what others did and said.

I will extend myself inward,
I will always love me…
You remind me of my pitfalls,
Drawn into the ashes by a wave of echoed calls.

You remind me to be gentle,
You encourage me to be kind —
Rest easy, beautiful.
You’ve left a lesson or two behind.

Update: I have just been told that my entry came in third place in the competition, which is a wonderful honour. Thank you to the judges for believing in my work and for sharing my piece with their community.

– Conrad was here.

You are worthy of a full experience of all the emotions life has to offer.

Below is a journal entry I wrote on the 12th of December 2018, the day I resigned from my job, having made a decision to pursue a new career as a writer. I stumbled onto the text recently, and three months later, on the verge of starting this new chapter from April 1st, I felt inspired to share what I had written on that day while I sat in a coffee shop over lunch.

Hello, writer! Here you are. You’re giving this thing a go. Embrace it. Go in knowing you can (and will) fail at some point, but it’s all about how you pick yourself up, how you respond, and how you remain resilient within the decision you’ve made for yourself.

You have had a lot on your place these past six months, but you have made it this far. Well done. With a bit of luck, and encouragement from the universe, you will go where you would like to go. Remind yourself of your goal on a regular basis. Remember that you are doing this to meet and connect with as many different people from as many walks of life as possible. This is something that is of the utmost importance to you at this stage.

That particular notion should not, however, apply exclusively to your career. This decision is all about finding new avenues for connection. Where are there avenues for you to connect with people through your words? TSOL (The School of Life), blogging, short stories, songwriting, speech writing… the list in endless, really. Start by paying it forward. The appropriate opportunities will come your way naturally. You have asked the universe for it already. Trust your abilities. Trust that this is the right thing for you.

Remember to keep practicing being your authentic self in the months ahead. Prepare yourself for what is to come. There are many things for you to continue to say no to. A job or any client work that isn’t intrinsically satisfying. Self interested people. Parental notions of who I am supposed to be. Dates which feel too familiar (leave if you need to!). Anxious attachment. Pleasing others over and above taking care of myself. Trying to fit a specific mould based on who I believe myself to be. Excess! Perfection. The idea of what being a writer is and will be. A romantic notion that it won’t be long hours of hard work. Don’t kid yourself and stay on course, dude.

One second at a time, Conrad. Things are already happening. Embrace the change. You know what you don’t want, which is a great place to start from. The freedom of being accountable to your own time is going to make all the difference, as daunting as it may be. Do whatever it takes. You are taking a risk, but you have a great opportunity to succeed too.

Good luck to you, good sir. Remember that you are worthy of a full experience of all the emotions life has to offer.

– Conrad was here.

A gentle reminder from a friend to practice being a better listener (and yes, it requires some work on my part).

I was in conversation with two of my closest friends yesterday, and while I usually don’t face too many pushbacks (well, talking back) in the conversations I have with people, this particular time was a bit different. My one friend started a story, which she had told me privately before, and I interjected right away, changing the topic and essentially, diverting the attention back to myself. I was in no mood to waste her time, or mine.

Our other friend who was there subsequently interjected me mid-sentence, reminding me that she actually wanted to hear the story, and that I should remember that within our friendship group it is good to ‘share the floor’ from time to time. Ouch. “We all give each other time to tell our stories and share,” she said very calmly and patiently, but naturally, this made me realise that I may be in a phase where I am diverting a lot of attention back towards myself. I immediately recalled a few recent conversations where I had changed the topic and rattled off about my own life — perhaps an after effect of the underlying (subtle) anxiety I am feeling about the changes in my career, or perhaps, I’m just going through a phase of being more self absorbed than usual. This is something I work hard to keep in check, but I’ll leave those thoughts for my therapist’s office.

What struck me the most from reflecting on this particular incident was, in fact, a realisation of what a good listener this friend who interjected me was. Out of all my marble jar friends (people who keep adding to the trust jar, according to Brene Brown) she is perhaps the one who I know the “least” about in the conventional sense. She is the one who I haven’t heard as much about her past, or perhaps, who usually is an ear to me and others, rather than being someone who is allowed to lean on her friends 50/50. I think both parties have to acknowledge when this happens, whether that is in a friendship or a relationship, gradually adjusting and working harder to steer the ship out of the rumble strip.

Upon further reflection I realised that in most of my close relationships, I have recently started to veer more into a direction of voicing an opinion loudly and in somewhat of a steamrolling fashion, rather than sitting back, and practicing the art (and skill) of active listening. I’ve also experienced this in a new relationship I have entered into, where often, I find myself interjecting during his stories, and I am trying to be more mindful of this, as, in fact, we are still getting to know each other and I like hearing more about his life and world view.

So how do you become a better listener? As I’ve mentioned, I believe that it is a practiced skill. The first step, is not interrupting someone when they are speaking. This can be hard, especially if you’re addressing a fairly stimulating topic, or one that you may feel you have some kind of expertise in. I find myself feeling like I know a little bit about everything, well… all the time. It’s not always a good look for the people around me and it is somewhat of a source of shame for me. What I’ve learned, through the teachings of other philosophers and motivational speakers, is that it’s all about becoming the learner, not the knowerYou cannot possibly believe that you know a little bit about everything, or even a lot about anything. If you approach every conversation armed with an idea that you want to learn something, rather than forcing your opinion, you’ll not only learn more, but in my experience, you also find that you will be asked your opinion a lot more as well.

By paying attention through active listening, you also pick up on the finer details of what someone is saying: essentially, you listen to understand. This implies hearing what the person is saying on the surface, and what they may actually be saying. “You need to practice listening more to others” is a direct message to me, of course, but viewed differently, I pondered whether perhaps this friend of mine wasn’t feeling heard in our friendship (or group), and that she may also be longing to have her opinion heard more, be it because of this particular aspect of her life, work or even her home life. So, the next time someone says something to you, better yet, the next time someone says something malevolent to you, take a second to consider that it could in fact be hiding some sort of a deeper issue they could be working through. I don’t think this was necessarily the case with my friend, who wasn’t malevolent in her approach, but we all face people in our days who do make it a bit harder to express their opinions with kindness and empathy.

Actively listening to someone else when they are spending time with you, and holding back on giving your opinion until they have expressed themselves is a courtesy that I like to compare to an old African proverb I read about once, which essentially says “I see you — I am here”. I want all the people in my inner circle (and even just those acquaintances who pop in and out of your life) to feel seen, and to believe that I am there with them and present in the moment. This is at the core of true connection for me, and a skill that I definitely could do with practicing a little bit more. So here’s my goal for the next few weeks: sit back, and listen to the stories of others. Take note of what they’re saying, and what they’re implying by what they’re saying. Enjoying learning from others. Remember that you are not the centre of the universe, and that we all have something to teach each other. I’ll be sure to report back on how this went in a future blog post, not because I’m trying to be fancy, but because I realise I need to be held accountable too. I’m really thankful to my friend for reminding me to be a better listener, and in essence, it has allowed us to connect on a deeper level. It also never hurts to have somebody spill some truth tea on you, especially if it is someone who you respect and value. I’m grateful for the reminder.

– Conrad was here.

 

 

 

 

Trusting myself enough to give a new venture the best possible chance to succeed.

17 days ago I wrote a post about how my mental health journey had turned into a process of reinvention, how I had started the year with a clear mindset and with clear goals for what I wanted to tackle. I skimmed through it again this morning, and it certainly looks great on paper. The last week has been one of the most difficult in my mental health journey, not because I hit a dip, but because I started to doubt myself and my ability to succeed on this new path of wanting to become a writer.

There’s not doubt in my mind that my mental health dipped a bit from the start of the week, I could feel it coming on, as I was engaging in a lot of unhealthy self soothing activities: excessive drinking, excessive dating, extending excessive energy outward, rather than turning my focus inward, and generally having to deal with anxiety levels that were through the roof. I see no point in beating myself up about it, it happened, I dealt with it the best possible way I could, and I’ve got to let that go as something that is part of the journey. None of these things are bad when done in moderation, but I could feel that I was extending myself further than I usually would, dropping a few self care routines in the process and ultimately contributing more to my anxiety. It has meant I’ve had to take a few additional steps to “navigate the rumbling strip” so to speak, and I will be implementing a few boundaries in the week ahead, as well as preparing to meet with a psychiatrist, who will hopefully be able to assist me in finding a medication that will be able to balance my anxiety levels. I’m a naturally anxious person, but considering the shifts I’m busy planning in my life, it’s normal for my anxiety levels to be elevated, but I’m of no use to anyone when it is debilitating to my day-to-day and when it stops me from functioning like a normal member of society and getting to the things I’d like to get to. We all deserve to soothing in this often very harsh world, and perhaps meeting with a specialist will help me find a better balance than my GP is able to offer me. What I’ve been busy doing clearly isn’t doing my mental health any favours. One day at a time.

This week, self trust has been on my mind a lot. I stumbled onto the concept while doing some light reading online, realising that a lot of my day-to-day anxiety comes from a fear of failure. My self esteem is inextricably linked to my career success, something that was drilled into me from childhood with high expectations for school performance, and thus why I’ve always worked fairly high profile jobs. I realised though, that the decision to pursue something as ‘volatile’ as a career in writing (or any career in a creative field), would not have been possible had I not trusted myself enough to feel that I could succeed at it in the first place. This entire week, I’ve been worrying about failure, and not trusting that I would be able to bounce back from failure. This is something that is fairly ridiculous of course, as I’ve bounced back from many failures, and in essence it is what makes life such an interesting journey after all. I’ve just been doubting myself and the decision to focus more time and energy into my writing, convincing myself that it “wasn’t a real dream” and that it is something that I shouldn’t be doing. This week ahead, I’d like to make an active effort to remind myself that I’m allowed to trust myself as I move into this new chapter and on this new journey. In the short space of time since I’ve made the decision to move in this direction, I’ve been given a bunch on wonderful ‘gifts’ already, in the sense of meeting people from similar industries, being referred to writer communities and finding opportunities for me to tackle. It simply is now the time to put my head down and to give it a gong.

I was on a walk earlier today, questioning whether I was making the right decision in pursuing my passion. As I got to the of the road I was walking on, I stepped on a painted sign on the road that read “FH” (fire hydrant). As I stepped on the sign, the artist I was listening to on my headphones chanted the word “fire” in the middle of the song, in a moment of sweet serendipity. A few minutes later a butterfly flew right up to me and grazed my knee. I was reminded that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this very moment. I was reminded to continue to work to be kind and gentle to myself in this process. I was reminded that I’m simply a human being, doing his best, and going through a process that isn’t an easy undertaking. These past eight months have been months of tremendous personal and spiritual growth, and I won’t let one bad week set me back for the rest of the year. It just isn’t worth it. Time to trust myself enough to know that no matter what, I will get through this.

– Conrad was here.

How my mental health journey became a process of personal reinvention.

You are pursuing your passion. Remember this on the good and the bad days. Life is a journey. You are but a sea fish, swept along the current, sucked in and spat out in continual motion. Everything as and when it should be. Adjust and recover accordingly. You are not in control. Love yourself. Go kindly & gently.*

It’s been 200 days since I started my self care and mental health journey, and if you’ve been following my story on the blog, you’ll know just what a journey it’s been. I have thoroughly enjoyed documenting what can only be referred to as a tricky period in my life, but am also so thankful that we’re at this point, where, with sufficient reflection, I’ve realised that the breakdown happened for one very distinct reason: as part of me starting a process of personal reinvention.

A reinvention can be classified as the process where something is changed so much, it appears to be entirely new, and this is exactly how I’m feeling after six months of depression recovery. Over the festive season, I took stock of all the decisions I made in the last twelve months in fact, and realised that each one of them has led me to this very moment, where I now have the ability to revisit and change my approach, to change how I respond to untoward situations, to break the emotional shackles that have held me back for so many years, and to, frankly put, come of age as an adult. It all started when I realised how easily I “sulk” when things don’t go my way. I’m at a point where I get ashamed when my natural reaction is to sulk, which means that things are moving in the right direction.

So what does a reinvention include, according to me? I’ve reflected extensively on this, taking into account how my life has changed since I started prioritising my mental health. Here is what I’d like to focus on moving forward:

  • Moving from sporadic (inconsistent) learning to active reading and doing my best to learn something from everyone I meet.
  • Approaching my life in a more mindful way, escaping the clutches of robotic and systemic thinking in how I make decisions. This includes a 15 minute silent meditation each morning, which I am enjoying so much.
  • Getting out of the “bubble” of my local community, and expanding my network to meet more people from all walks of life and different places around the world. This has been made possible by a few interesting platforms that landed “on my desk” in the last month or so, and I’ve noticed just how much I still have to learn about other societies and cultures.
  • Being intrinsically motivated (doing personally fulfilling work) in my career, rather than being financially motivated. I’ll be sure to share a separate post on this too, as there is a lot to talk about here, but basically, I want to spend my time working on projects that are worthwhile for me. Changes are coming.
  • Accepting a modest and unstable life as a creative, rather than searching for something lucrative and “stable” (if you can even consider any kind of existence stable).
  • Living a more nomadic lifestyle, rather than being office/computer bound. This includes the ability to work from anywhere in the world, rather than being tied to a full-time position. This also includes more trips in nature and connecting with the earth, exploring its secrets and finding the best possible learning path for myself.
  • Pursuing a more authentic look: I’m growing a beard, letting my body hair grow, and would like to explore clothing that is more me: my friends have commented that I have quite a preppy aesthetic, which I’ve discovered is something that isn’t truly who I am, but rather a bi-product of the community I grew up in.
  • Classifying myself as a dreamer, rather than a careerist. This includes no longer grounding my self esteem in terms of my work, but rather in terms of my creative vision and dreams. This ties in with my impeding career change, which I’ll discuss further in another post.
  • Continuing to say no when my self care is compromised. This is a boundary I will be practicing to uphold, well, come hell or high water, this year. It has been interesting to see how my peers have reacted to me not giving the automatic yes to everything I get asked to do or go to.
  • Living day-to-day, rather than month-to-month or with extensive plans that try to control where things are going. All we have is today, all we have is this very moment.
  • Moving away from the dreams my parents had for me (in terms of family, my career, housing, marriage etc.), to my own goals, which are mainly creatively grounded and set up in a way to connect on a 1:1 basis with as many different people as possible. I don’t mean to disrespect their vision, but it was never mine to begin with, and I’d like to find my own passions independently of what anyone in my inner circle may have to say about it.
  • Diverting from this notion that we’re meant to be chasing happiness as the end goal: this year, I’m chasing a multitude of emotional experiences, and making peace with the bad along with the good. Some days you’ll have anxiety and exhaustion with a great sense of joy from the smallest of moments. It’s simply the flow of life. I’d like to make peach with that.
  • Finding solace in my introversion, and accepting that I’m just not somebody that enjoys playing the part of “extrovert” in a social setting. Let’s have a quiet cup of tea and connect 1:1 – then you truly understand who I am.
  • Living modestly and as a minimalist, rather than pursuing excess, whether that be in materialistic purchases, where I live, what I drive, or something as simple as how much I’m eating on a bad day. Everything is to be taken as a practice in moderation. Everything to be taken as an opportunity to remain realistic about what is happening out there in the real world and to adapt accordingly.

I’d like to end off this post with three additional ideas that I’m exploring as part of the reinvention process, which I thought deserved a little bit more emphasis and discussion. They are as follows:

1. Changing my definition of success.

In my twenties, I used to measure success by traditional financial standards, comparing myself to my peers, school friends as well as placing a lot of emphasis on my job title, salary, or the company I work for. Moving into 2019, and as part of my reinvention process, I’ve decided that for me, success will rather be measured in terms of how well I’m developing my competencies this year.

Before my 30th birthday, I used to focus all my efforts to correcting my “flaws” and giving so much energy towards the things I considered to be ‘wrong’ with me. You can imagine what that did to my self esteem. That has changed massively since I started my self care journey. Now, my primary focus is on pursuing the things that I already consider myself to be competent in. My writing ability, for example, is a wonderful gift that I’d like to practice and refine as it is something that gives me great joy. Since the start of my holiday, I’ve been writing about two hours a day, something that is showing no signs of slowing down, so we’re making decent progress so far. Watch this space!

2. Being more flexible with my decisions.

I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol between 17 June and the end of December last year, all as part of giving the anti-depressants the best possible chance go “do their thing”, but over the festive season I realised that I would not be able to go into 2019 with such a rigid mindset about well, anything. The alcohol example is the most practical one I can share, to emphasise how I’d like to be a bit more gentle with myself going as part of the reinvention. Nothing in life is sustainable as simply “this” or “that”, it requires flexibility and I realised I needed to let up on my rigidity to practice being kinder to myself.

I ended up having a glass of wine while on holiday. It was in a controlled environment, I managed my mental health very carefully (those who have followed the blog will know that I usually dipped emotionally two days after drinking) and quite frankly, it didn’t add or take away much, so I consider it to have been a good decision. Drinking a bottle of wine because I feel anxious? Not a vibe or an option as part of my self care journey. Having a glass of champagne with friends when I find out they’re having a baby? Yes. Having a glass of red wine on a date where I’m connecting with someone? Absolutely. It’s also alright for me to enjoy myself, I don’t have to earn the right to do so.

3. Freeing myself from emotional shackles holding me back.

There are three key emotional shackles that have held me back for a very long time, that I wanted to share here very quickly:

  1. Anxious attachment: Do yourself a favour, and research the four different psychological attachment styles. I’ve discovered that I attach anxiously in all relationships in my life, even in my work. While not easily possible to change to a secure attachment style, it is possible to change how you respond in situations when you feel your anxious attachment coming on. As they say in Eat. Pray. Love: “Think of me, send me love, and drop it”. It has been very helpful to get me to detach across a wide spectrum of dynamics in my life and I’ll be sure to write more about this soon.
  2. The rescuer mentality: I’ve always been known as a good problem solver, and I can easily talk anyone off’ an emotional ledge, thanks to my ability to really listen when someone is sharing with me. Sometimes, especially in my past, this has become something I sought out to distract myself, i.e. trying to find someone to “rescue”. My therapist made a great point on this last year. “If you try to rescue someone, you are highlighting to others that they haven’t yet been saved, and that they’re not strong enough to save themselves”. This was a powerful momentum shifting statement. While it’s gotten a lot better, and I’ve detached successfully from this kind of behaviour with my inner circle, I am mindful that it is something that can still be a problem for me moving forward.
  3. The need for external validation. We all want to feel seen or heard. Sometimes I want this a little too much, and, as with many of us it trickles into the image I project on social media. I’m breaking free from this shackle in 2019, focusing on tackling my self esteem issues via therapy and coaching, and best yet, in my writing. I am whole, for I am both the good and the bad. Brene Brown comes to mind here, who in her most recent book said “you don’t need to prove that you deserve a seat at the table”. Just sit and enjoy yourself.

Moving forward, the blog will be positioned as an avenue for me to discuss this reinvention process. Thank you so much to everyone who has been following my journey so far. I’d love for you to continue with me as we enter into a new phase.

– Conrad was here.

*My first journal entry for 2019, in a diary I was given by my friend Jana.

Drawing closer to six months of depression recovery & sobriety this month.

The end of the year is here and I am inching ever closer to the six month checkup with my GP. I’m happy to report that since taking a break from the blog to focus more energy on my day-to-day recovery, I’ve stuck to my guns and and continued to take my meds each day, while also maintaining my sobriety, though I will say that it has been incredibly challenging, especially in the last month.

Call it a plateau, call it a dip, call it life throwing me a few curveballs in quick succession (To give some context: a work agreement with the first client I signed to my business ended abruptly, I slipped in the shower, hitting my head, arm and cracking open my toe, I got dumped out of the blue by someone I was starting to care about somewhat more than usual, two friends went through serious health scares, one of my housemates’ pets passed away unexpectedly, someone close to me made a life altering revelation to me and me alone, plus, I received a damn traffic fine for R2000 – this was yesterday in fact). No matter what you want to call it, dips remain a part of this thing we call life and I’ve made peace with that. Still pretty shitty to go through.

Like the waves of the ocean, things happen in ebbs and flows, and while the past month has been challenging in terms of external circumstances (essentially, adulting), I haven’t worried about dealing with these events, but rather been more concerned about potentially dropping my guard with regards to important self care boundaries I set up at the start of this journey in June. I have to admit did in fact drop a lot of the boundaries as a result of the external events, but I’m happy to report that with support from friends & family, coaching and therapy, as well as practicing saying no to people, I’ve gradually managed to navigate back out of the rumbling strip and am pointed back in a more positive direction: reaching 6 months of recovery, on December 17th.

For some reason, I managed to get it into my head that sobriety should make the recovery process “easier” or “faster”, make the meds work “better” than usual and would essentially mean that my mood and general energy levels would gradually improve until I was “fixed” from this whole depression experience, so to speak. To be fair, my mood changes were so drastic between months 2 and 4, that I could be forgiven for thinking so in the first place. My doctor was quick to correct this when I saw her regarding the slip in the shower, remarking that in cases with someone who has a family history of depression, it was important to note that a breakdown tends to require at least nine months of treatment, and even then, there are no real guarantees. Would have been useful to know this upfront and before I set my own expectations, but nevertheless, she got the information across without me throwing a fit.

She encouraged me not to assume that after six months everything would be miraculously better, and it did get me to rethink my approach to all of this. It was a bit of a bitter pill to swallow at the time (perhaps because deep down I already knew this, or because she was busy dressing my cracked toenail and I was having a mini meltdown), but I swallowed the pill nonetheless and have once again been reminded of something that has been central to this journey: you can really only take things one day at a time. There is no timeline, no rulebook, no right way to guarantee success. Nothing is promised and that’s ok. This perspective has allowed me to be more appreciative of the little pleasures in my day (which my Instagram has clearly been reflecting in recent weeks).

I also recently came to the realisation that mental health is a tremendously personal thing for everyone, depending on their journey and life story. Sobriety and taking your medication as prescribed naturally doesn’t hinder recovery and is encouraged by healthcare professionals, but I have realised it isn’t possible to apply general recovery principles to large groups of people, or to attempt to give advice to others that should be considered a ‘guaranteed solution’ for the other person, simply because it may have worked for me or made things a little more comfortable for me. I therefore now find pleasure not in giving advice, but rather in learning to be a better listener to the journey of others. I can only share my story and hope that it encourages others to take a step in the direction of mental health prioritisation once they are ready to do so and in their own time.

No other person on this earth can take responsibility for your mental health. Each person has their own journey to go on, and the best I can hope for moving forward is to have as many conversations about mental health as possible, in the process detaching from the self appointed title of “advocate” and essentially just allowing myself to be open to connecting with people who are brave enough to be vulnerable, and from whom I can learn a great deal too.

– Conrad was here.