I get by with a little help from my Cat

Sometimes when I’m anxious I don’t want a hug, I don’t want advice, and I don’t want anybody to try to calm me down…. I just want a cat. Anybody who knows me knows how obsessed I am with my cat, she even has her own Instagram page. Pets in a general can be very therapeutic another added bonus is they never judge you! Sure sometimes it looks like your cat might be judging you, but I assure you he/she is just thinking about food or a random speck on the wall. Seriously though, not only can animals make you happier they can make you healthier!

Here is an interesting statistic about pets and their effect on anxiety I quickly googled (so you know it’s true)

In some survey of pet owners from somewhere, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership.
Say What?

Whats there not to love about pets? Sure you gotta feed them, take care of their poo and give them attention but at the end of the day, when my life feels like it is going to complete shit, it’s pretty cool to know that a living thing depends on me and loves me. It instills a sense of purpose during those times I feel I am not capable of anything. When I shift my attention to taking care of my pet, it really does help take my mind off of my worries. Anxiety has the tendency to escalate something small into something huge super quickly. But when I’m around my cat I’m forced to focus on her  (she makes sure of this) instead of whats bothering me.
Also, can we talk about cuddles for a second? They are amazing! I mean sure cat cuddles kind of come at the cat’s discretion, but that makes receiving all that much better. Also, my cat is pretty intuitive, she never denies me a cuddle when she can sense I’m in a bad mood. Although sometimes she does draw the line at having me pretend she is Simba at the beginning of Lion King.


I mean listen, everybody has their own way of dealing with anxiety and I am not saying one coping mechanism is better than another, but I’d much rather run to pet my kitty than swig some booze or pop a Xanax. Just saying.

❤ Sweeney

From being THAT girl @ the bar to becoming THAT girl that DOESN’T DRINK (@ the bar).

So I’ve been told when you’re trying to cut out drinking from your life that it is a good idea to also cut ties with the friends you drink with. Theoretically, I completely understand this, but I’m sorry but…hell no. Do you know how long it fricken takes me to find a group of people that I can be completely comfortable around? Sure it has been tough, but I am willing to put myself in that difficult position to maintain important friendships. Not to mention, I also have a major FOMO complex. There are, however, definitely acquaintances of mine that I only feel comfortable around if I am drinking/drunk…. they can go. To be honest, acquaintances are the vain of my existence anyway​. So if I’ve hung out with you at a bar or party in the past month, congratulations….I must really like you!

It has been a strange experience going from binge drinker to non-drinker. Some of the changes have been really enjoyable, for instance helllllo no hangovers! And not gonna lie, it is pretty cool to remember your whole evening. When I go out now I put much more emphasis as to why I’m leaving the comfort of my couch and Netflix​. Whether it is to watch your band play or celebrate your birthday, I am actually going out to support and be there for you. Before any excuse to drink was a reason to go out and the occasion always played second fiddle. I was a very selfish drinker and I really didn’t care about anything other than when I was going to get my next drink. It feels good to actually be present. It is also reallllllly funny to watch my boyfriend get wasted which, after over 10 years of dating, I have rarely seen because he’d always have to be in charge of taking care of my drunk ass.

Now for the downside… it’s really hard. Imagine wanting nothing more than relaxing with a nice cold beer, preferably a microbrew​ (because I’m pretentious like that) but not being able to have one AND THEN subjecting yourself to several hours of being surrounded by said micro-brew. Ugh, honestly it is the literal worst. It is a craving like none other. I have found that my anxiety lessons a bit once I put any form of beverage in my hand. If I am at a brunch type of event, chamomile tea helps to calm my nerves and relax me. If I am going out at night I will usually stick to water or if I want to get really wild a diet coke/ sugar-free​ energy drink. Also… lots and lots of kudzu​ (and occasionally kava)root. I’m actually going to make a post soon about supplements and which ones I take for a more natural mood support, so stay tuned!

Another pitfall? Having to explain (over & over) why you aren’t drinking. Sometimes people do not even ask but I feel compelled to tell them just because I assume they are wondering (even if they probably aren’t). If my anxiety makes me feel like I stick out like a sore thumb than not drinking at a bar makes me feel like I am naked and painted hot pink. My friends are completely fine with it though and very supportive. If you are going through something similar and your “friends” make you feel weird about it, that’s when I fully support the idea of cutting ties.

The only other challenge I’ve come across so far is answering the question “So how long are you doing this for?”. Word of advice, do not ask somebody who’s​ struggling with drinking that because ​IDK hopefully forever? In my head that is like trying to calculate how long it is going to take me to fail. Could I learn how to drink in moderation and start partaking again? Maybe….but probably not. Will I ever just say f*ck it and start drinking again? I honestly can’t answer that. For now, ​it’s safe to say the “Sween Machine” is in a coma. It’s possible she’ll stay asleep indefinitely. It is also (hopefully significantly less) equally possible she’ll wake up. Instead of worrying about when that may or may not happen, I am just going to continue to enjoy my new found clarity.

❤ Sweeney

More than just a guilty pleasure: How Reality T.V distracts me from my Reality

I felt like it was time for a little bit of a more lighthearted post. I am actually not much of a reality television fan. However, there is one particular show that I have now been watching for just about 15 years (ohhh my gosh, just typing that out makes me feel hella old) that holds a special place in my heart. That show is MTV’s “The Challenge”, originally known to me as “Real World/Road Rules Challenge”. The latter may sound familiar, as the show’s original casting pool came from people who had either appeared on Road Rules or the ever popular Real World. The series is a competition based show in which the winner (which could be a team, pair or individual) wins a relatively large sum of money and in some cases a Saturn Ion, woo! On the path to victory, friendships are tested and broken, romances blossom, LOTS of booze is poured and general debauchery ensues. And then somehow between the fights, the tears and the hookups some people actually impress you with their athletic prowess.

I recently read a quote about reality television that struck me, “In the reality- TV era, unstable behavior becomes a valid career choice”. No wonder I had such an obsession! There is a reason this show was my go to. Every season I would get to see like 20 hot messes make a fool of themselves while also kicking ass and winning money. As a formerly self-described train wreck and collegiate athlete I actually felt like I could relate to this show on a deep level. Saying that I relate to a reality tv show on a deep level truly makes me cringe, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t.

I also thought (as I’m sure many other fans of the show did) that I would be a GREAT addition to the series. I once shared the desire to make my reality t.v debut to a friend and he turned to me with the most serious expression and said: “No…please don’t… you’d be the next Snookie”. I’m too old to be cast now though, so it will always remain a mystery how great I could’ve been. Ughhhh I just had to go get my Master’s Degree during the prime reality t.v years of my life. PLD if I do say so myself. Honestly, ​though, I do not know if I could handle it. I have a hard enough time facing my friends after I do something embarrassing. If I let a million viewers glimpse into my private life I would probably find a nice looking rock and hide under it for the rest of eternity.

So now I just get to call myself a longtime viewer, and that is fine. One of the aspects of this show I really enjoy is how many of the people are cast for multiple seasons. When you’ve watched a show for 15 years and it still follows many of the same people’s story arcs, you grow attached. I feel invested in them. Whether it is watching somebody who once told somebody they wanted to smash their head and eat it (I kid you not) fall in love or a religious fanatic wanting to settle their beef​ by wrestling, I am never left non-entertained. I’ve also learned​ so much from​ watching. For instance, I now know approximately how much furniture is possible to smash during the duration of a Yellowcard song. What would my life be without that knowledge!?!?!?! So here is my Johnny Banana’s toast to the Challenge. Thanks for being there for me year after year. You always know how to make my spirits high when I am having a bad day, especially on trivia challenge day and for that, I am forever grateful.

❤ Sweeney

EmployMENTAL: Anxiety & The Workplace

Dealing with anxiety at work is admittedly one of my biggest challenges. Maybe because it is something that, over the years, I’ve hyped up in my head as being super stressful. Not that I think everyone else has it easy at work…because I’m over 1,001% sure I am not the only one plagued with this pesty problem, but it certainly has affected my life significantly.

One of the first non-seasonal “real” jobs I had was an Assistant Front of House Manager at a prominent performing arts center. I started out as an usher and then got promoted, mainly because my good friend was another assistant and I was one of the few employees to speak English. I guess that was good enough to qualify me for my first managerial position. Anyways….I had a hard time with it. Not because I wasn’t capable or confident leading others, but for other obscure reasons. Sometimes it would be that I was too nervous to ask back of house what the latecomer policy was and other times I would freak out over just the prospect of not finding somebodies seat.

The reason why I am bringing up this particular job is that it was during this time I was testing out different anti-depressants. More notably, it was the job that caused the Nurse Practitioner I was seeing to first prescribe me Xanax “as needed”. Looking back at it now, I wish I had never started taking Xanax  (more on that some other time). I also totally wish I was seeing a different NP. First of all, she started me out on an anti-depressant that did not even treat anxiety and instead of finding a substitution she would just keep prescribing more meds on top of it. Secondly, she instilled this notion in my head that I needed medication if I ever wanted to succeed professionally.

It’s a strange balancing act, being confident but also at the same time having crippling anxiety. It’s like some days I feel like I can take on the world and others leaving the house seems almost impossible. It has caused my work performance to be very uneven. And there have definitely been times where I self-sabotaged myself on the job purposely so I could try to outrun my nerves. I kept thinking that maybe if I found the right job my anxiety wouldn’t be able to find me.

Now that I am 30 and these emotions have been following me around for as long as I can remember… I am starting to realize I can’t escape them. I can’t just hop from job to job hoping that maybe this time everything will magically be perfect. I’ve often used anxiety as my crutch for failure, but in reality, I should know better than to rely on the very thing that knocks me down to help me walk. I am finally coming to the conclusion that these feelings aren’t a result of just circumstance and that it’s going to take a lot of commitment to overcome them.

For once, I am really trying. Its kind of a make it or break it moment in my life and I refuse to crack this time. As Eminem so eloquently puts it “Success is my only motherfuckin’ option, failures not”. I’m not going to lie, it has been really hard. Sometimes I feel so embarrassed and isolated by my own thoughts that all I want to do is hide under my desk. Sometimes I am so consumed by the fear of what my peers are thinking about me it makes it hard to focus on what I need to do. Luckily, strangers don’t give me anxiety! This makes meeting people and building early connections quite easy for me. Not to brag, but I am pretty personable. Now all I have got to do is figure out how to be that person more of the time. I’ll keep ya’ll posted on how that works out for me.

Til’ next time!

❤ Sweeney

New Year, Old Me

So despite leading up to the New Year with guns blazing, once 2018 actually did roll around I fell short…and by “fell short” I mean I think I literally fell down at some point after the ball dropped and incidentally dropped my own metaphorical New Year’s ball (ba dum chh). All puns aside though, 2018 has pretty much sucked for me so far.

The month prior to January I had spent an insurmountable amount of time self reflecting, making improvements and basically just working on trying to get my shit together. And not to pat myself on my own back, but I was doing a pretty good job. I actually believed the notion of that cliche’d “New Year, New Me” thing would apply to me this year. Its not like I thought I’d become a whole different person, but I was confident in my efforts to become a least a better one.

Nothing particularly major happened to make me this way. My biggest set back was that I ended up drinking on New Years, something I had been adamantly avoiding. I had made it through Christmas and several parties and outings without even craving alcohol. I was so proud of myself and I could see my mindset changing. I was OK being the only one in the room not partaking, hell I would even say it felt comfortable not to! I didn’t even drink until after Midnight. I don’t know what flipped the switch inside my brain, but I figured I had deserved to indulge just a little bit.

Of course, there is no such thing as a “little bit” with me and I ended up waking up at 3pm with a wicked hangover. While the hangover served as a great reminder to myself that I hate drinking, I couldn’t shake the feeling of disappointment. To make matter worse, this new low energy I had adopted in 2018 followed me throughout the next week.

Although I did not work New Years day, I felt sluggish and not myself the subsequent days at work. My anxiety was back with a vengeance and I had trouble organizing my thoughts and getting through tasks. In case you don’t already know, Anxiety is a raging bitch. I started getting all these crazy thoughts in my head and coming up with wild conclusions in my head over what my co-workers thought of my obvious low energy. Reality tells you: They probably thought you could use a good Starbucks run and maybe a nap. Anxiety on the other hand attacks you with ….. OMG EVERYONE THINKS YOU ARE CRAZY. Why do you suck at your job so much…. WhAt iS wRoNg WiTh YoU?!?! Other than anxiety making you think it is acceptable to toggle your type in a blog post, it is completely illogical.

So THAT my friends has been my 2018 so far. Not so fun. All stemming from 1 night of drinking too…which is kinda insane if you think about it. On a positive note though, my efforts in December in the self improvement department were not fruitless. Because of the work I put in, I have been able to pull my big girl pants back on and myself out of this slump (It might of taken almost like a full week, but hey I still deserve some credit!). So tonight I am going to go home after a productive day at work, eat some Pizza and maybe jot down ideas on how to embody a New Year, New Me mantra for myself.

❤  Sweeney

Nicknames & Their Connotations

So in my last post, I briefly touched upon the idea of trying to live up to this image of being a “hot mess”. I know it seems like an odd trait to pursue as your identity, but in a strange way doing so made me feel safe. As long I self-identified as being a mess other people’s perception of me (in theory) would carry less weight. To help perpetuate this idea I had a nickname, The Sween Machine.

This nickname actually started pretty innocently enough. I had just moved to New Jersey for grad school, during the height of The Jersey Shore’s popularity and it was just sort of my “Jersey” name. Soon, ​however, the name morphed into an outlet for me to become this completely different person. When you have anxiety, the thought of being a different person is comforting. The Sween Machine was carefree, wild and did things without thinking. She could act in all the ways my anxiety inhibited me from doing. Besides the obvious, one of the HUGE problems that came with this was that in order to become my alter-ego I had to drink… A LOT.

I had some fun times being the Machine, but overall it was super detrimental to my well being and completely not worth it. For those fleeting hours of drunken escape, ​I made my anxiety much worse. Now not only did I feel anxious, but I had to navigate through dealing with my drunken actions, many of which I did not even remember. I also could not handle being in social situations without drinking and when I did drink I would always binge. I started becoming a liability not only to myself​ ​ but other people. No matter how bad it got, however, I couldn’t seem to let go of the Machine. It took a lot of time for me to even begin thinking of shedding this image. I now try to work on it everyday. I am attempting to completely cut out alcohol from my life and try different natural supplements instead of medications to deal with my anxiety. I am slowly learning that being in control of your life is much better for your mood than allowing it to be a huge mess (go figure!). I am finally allowing myself to be myself. No more Machine Wreck.

 ❤ Sweeney