Anyone else struggling with being productive? Anyone else find any cool ways to help get back on track?

At least it’s sunny!

It’s quarantine day 17 for me. And like everyone else, I’m going stir-crazy.  I’ve been watching the news, watching the number of sick people rise, watching the chaos and uncertainty spread everywhere, but there’s only so much of that a person can do. I miss seeing people. I’m so incredibly thankful for technology, and for the fact that I can FaceTime or Google Duo my friends and family (and play virtual games with them on other apps!), but I miss going out and seeing them in person. We’re all being responsible, doing the social distancing thing (though trying to remain emotionally close!). It’s tough, though! I also haven’t been working, which doesn’t bother me in itself but is stressful in terms of money. I’ve been writing articles here and there for some extra cash, and it was going great in the beginning with all the new free time. But now I feel like my brain has melted. It’s been hard to focus.

Still, I have found a few things that seem to help. Like, I know everyone seems to be talking about this, and I hate to even mention it because it seems so cliche at this point. But if I get up and stick to some sort of a “normal” routine most mornings, I notice I feel a lot better. And if I get changed into clothes that are comfortable but that aren’t pajamas haha. Oh, and making the bed helps too, if only because it sends the signal to my brain that I’ve at least done one successful thing!

Also, I know this was one of my depression tips a while back, but moving to various places around the apartment makes me feel better too. I don’t wanna spend the whole day at my desk trying to get writing done because it sucks the fun out of writing when I’m just looking at the damn screen and coming up with nothing. If I move to the kitchen table, sit on my bed, or even the floor, I tend to have more clarity of mind for some reason.

Another totally overused tip is to exercise or move in some way, but I don’t think I need to get too into that one.

Then there’s this amazing app I found: Flora.

It’s so fricken cool, like, I don’t even know why it’s so cool haha, it just kind of is.

Basically, it’s a productivity app that challenges you to focus for 25 minutes at least at a time. And while you’re focusing, you grow a tree. If you touch your phone before the time is up, you kill the tree (which you obviously don’t want to do!), so it’s a great motivator.

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Other cool features:

  • You can grow a tree together/work as a team
  • You can tag your sessions with one of six categories you create
  • You get graphs and charts and it keeps a calendar for you
  • You can receive daily summaries about how you’ve been doing
  • It shows your adorable little garden growing with each session

Here’s their website, but I found them on the iTunes store and downloaded the app to my phone. I would definitely go give it a try if you’re struggling. Or if you just want to feel suuperr accomplished and proud of yourself. One of my tags is just “other,” and I set the timer and go do random things around the house or anything that needs to be done, and by the end of that time spent being productive, I’ve grown another tree. And the app is free, so like, why wouldn’t you download it haha.

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And while I’m talking about things I’m excited about and that motivate me and that make reaching goals really easy and fun, I downloaded the Hero’s Journal. I’ve been following the creators on Instagram for a while, I think since they were just a Kickstarter, and they’re giving away a PDF of their “Quarantine Quest” (for free) and I looked through it yesterday and loved it so much that I immediately downloaded the full journal. It turns your life into an epic story and the journey to reaching your goals an adventurous quest. 10/10 would recommend, so fricken awesome.

I think it’s so important to do what you can with what you have, ya know? And turning mundane things into exciting things is just a great way to do that.

Totally reminds me of Mary Poppins singing “just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” while making toy cleanup fun. But aaaanywayyyy, I’m gonna go get to work!

I keep joking around with my boyfriend that if this was happening a month and a half ago one of us wouldn’t have survived. If we’d been quarantined in the middle of my massive depressive episode and I’d been utterly insane? No way. Lol I’ll take this moment to once again be thankful for my newfound sanity, but even still, I’m trying if to keep busy. Boredom has always been a trigger for me and even though I’m worlds better now I still don’t wanna push my luck haha. I spent most of the last week working on articles for one site I write for, so that was productive. But now I’m sitting here like “what else can I do?!” I can work on a few personal essays and other random blogposts. Or I can work on the jokey little kids book I’m writing for my nephew. But I’m hitting the pause button on the extreme writing, I think. I’ve been video calling lots of people. Technology is amazing like that. I can see my sister and bro in law and the baby. And my parents. And we all did a giant group FaceTime last night for like an hour with my cousins and rest of the family. So that was fun. But this social distancing/ quarantine thing is hard. I keep tellingggg myself there’s so much else to do! I have books to read and crafts to do. I have tons of coloring books and a fuckkkkton of markers and colored pencils and crayons. I have like five sudoku puzzle books from when I was at the psych hospital haha. I wanna crochet some hats or even a scarf. And I keep contemplating looking for workouts on YouTube lol but we’ll see about that. But yeah, this sucks but we’ll all survive. More than anything else I’m just thinking about boredom and how it relates to finding my purpose and my identity (which seems unrelated but I’m writing this whole thing about the connection and this coronavirus situation works with what I’m thinking about). Hope everyone is doing okay! Hang in there!!

This Morning vs Last Week …guess where I like working better!

 

I miss my little man so much. I didn’t actually write a lot while I was down there (I definitely prioritized my nephew over my writing, and I’m glad I did!), but I’m so glad I got to spend time with him, and with my sister and brother-in-law. It was amazing. In lots of ways. I was thinking a lot (while playing with my munchkin!) and it’s funny because the last time I was happy for as long as I’ve been happy now was when he was born in July. (Not that I’d call myself an unhappy person, which is weird bc my life is a constant battle against depression, and I definitely battled it from July to February). I was down there a few times back in July, and I remember working on an essay about stability. I wrote that it’s alluded me for quite some time and that mental healthiness is different than mental stability. You can be doing the self-care, mental health thing, and be doing it well, and still be unstable. Whiiiiich I was. But I think this time I’m actually stable. Stable. It’s fucking weird to even say. I use my Daylio and eMoods apps to track my symptoms and meds and moods, and it’s insanely bizarre to see straight lines and consistency. It’s almost annoying lol. That’s probably because I’m definitely a little “flat,” a little dull. I’m definitely experiencing the reason why so many bipolar people go off their meds. But I’m not gonna do that bc I’ll take this over being depressed one half of the time ANY day. Bc like…I was able to focus on my nephew/family. And unfortunately I wouldn’t have been able to do that while unstable. Idk what I wanted this post to be about, really. I think I just wanted to talk about my main little man lol. But have some bipolar wisdom too

spending my rainy morning staying calm and editing what I’d call “artsy” pics with positive phrases and whatnot

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So yeah. Some positivity for a rainy morning. I’m feeling a little better but still “off,” but maybe that’s just how people feel (no, it definitely isn’t, but maybe this is just how I feel haha…ugh). Either way. While I’m able to, I’m trying to do good things for myself. I’m sitting up straight because apparently posture has an impact on mood. I mean, makes sense. I’m breathing, which is an obvious statement, but every time I think about something annoying (I’ve always said I have to be super careful because even just one rogue/wrong thought can send me spiraling) I just breathe slowly. I’m really trying. I’m thinking happy thoughts, looking at happy pictures, and either allowing myself to smile or forcing myself to. I have a plan for the rest of my morning, a positive attitude about surviving work, and a plan for my evening. I got this, right?

Probability: how likely is it that I’ll actually feel good for the entire day today

I’ll start by saying that although I enjoyed some of my math classes back in school, it was never a particularly strong point of mine. So the info about probability might not be suuuuper accurate (despite me having a few tabs about it open on my browser). I’m thinking about it more metaphorically, and not at all in-depth. Go with me.

Because it’s just that every morning I wake up early and think to myself that I’ll be able to make the day a good one. And every day (for a long while now, and for what, a billion times before in a billion episodes before?), either the external world or the world within me doesn’t take long to pulverize that thought. So I’m currently thinking about probability as it applies to my life and my moods and my happiness.

I probably don’t need to state the obvious, but I had another earthquake of a panic attack last night. Took two of my pills that are supposed to help, because one clearly wasn’t enough, for whatever god-forsaken reason, and I was desperate to have a moment of relative calm. Desperate.

I ultimately got there, and I relished those moments before going to bed. How can I describe tasting freedom? There aren’t enough words at my disposal right now.

Right, so then I wake up today. Start going about the routine I cling to for dear life because regular routines and schedules are supposed to be good for us bipolars. I noticed a pretty sunrise outside the kitchen window while I was making my coffee and went outside to take a picture. The sky looked like cotton candy and I had that thought again: maybe today will be a good one.

(I edited some words onto the picture, because that’s how I try to appreciate positives, so enjoy) ^

But, unsurprisingly, I’m beginning to feel…not right. Could be that I’m anticipating it (how can I not, literally explain to me how I can not). Could be that I’m thinking myself into it (I don’t think that’s an actual thing, but it’s still something I worry about, which is weird). But regardless…fuck.

Sooooo what IS the probability that today won’t go to total SHIT? I have to divide the number of events by the number of possible outcomes.

How many possible outcomes are there? Is it just the two? One being that I’ll be okay and the other being that I’ll feel intense fear over nothing, cry my way through work, suffer internally in ways I’m sick of explaining, and come home to hide in my bed unable to shale the unceasing feeling of dread? There’s just the one event, being this one particular day. So is the probability that I’ll be okay just 1/2?

I think there are more factors involved, but hey, I like the odds when I think of them like that. It’s half and half.

This is some serious positive thinking, btw. Which has been immensely difficult, though not for lack of trying.

Furthermore, defining what I mean when I say “I’ll be okay” is pretty difficult because I don’t even know what I mean by that anymore. Been a while since I’ve felt whatever it is that that feels like. (Jeeeeez, all I do lately is bitch and moan, sorry!)

My posts aren’t even very essay-like anymore, which I guess might be a good thing, although I doooo love my essay-rants.

Anyway. Here’s to having an “okay day.”

memes are my coping mechanism and I think everyone in my boat can agree

It’s literally tornado alley up in here.

I had a panic attack last night after doing literally nothing. Like I had a good day, it was productive and relaxed, but by like 4 I just couldn’t push away the stabbing sensations of anxiety that had been ripping into me all day. I’d run out of bandaids. And like, can anyway blame me for being defeated and broken? For giving up?

But memes are my coping skill haha, that definitely counts right?

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I’m trying to put into words why they’re so valuable, and why humor in general is necessary for my survival (and I’m assuming the survival of everyone else who’s damned with mental illness, or even just unfortunate life circumstances).

Off the top of my head:

  • it’s a distraction from the shitshow that is life, even if it’s only for a few  brief seconds
  • being distracted like that for more than a few seconds (by scrolling through memes online or looking in that folder of memes you definitely have saved to your phone) sometimes calms me long enough so I can breathe and thus lessens my sheer, unrelenting panic
  • laughing releases endorphins that act to relieve pain and stress
  • I think if you laugh you kind of trick your brain into thinking “maybe things aren’t utterly terrible” and maybe, just maybe, you’ll continue thinking that unconsciously for a while
  • depression memes are just so damn relatable, and it helps at least a tiny bit to know you’re not totally alone in your suffering

I’m scanning a few websites for reasons #isthisresearch #pretendingtobesmart

Apparently, finding humor in the face of shitty shit makes us more resilient (a word I totally relate to, but it’s definition, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties fails to address the fact that I don’t recover quickly, I can’t be expected to, and I have no choice but to drag my ass into recovering…so keep that in mind when I use it). That isn’t some earth-shattering discovery, but it says it on everything I’m reading, so…

Have some resilience, and try to have a less-than-excruciatingly-depressing day ❤

Thursday Morning

I woke up at 6:30 this morning, which makes me happy. I love waking up early because the day still feels like it’s full of possibilities and excitement. And I had a really productive 2 or so hours. Did the usual. Took my meds, washed my face and brushed my teeth. I stretched, because that’s good to do, and I even sat for five minutes to take a crack at the whole meditation thing. Made my French press coffee, did the dishes while it was brewing, and came back to my desk to upload an article for the site I write for.

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Then I felt it. That familiar-but-still-scary feeling of anxiety pulling at my edges. I tried not to freak out at the first sign of it. I really don’t have to just give up now because this weird, pointless feeling is creeping in. I can try to push it out. Or I can just let it sit there in my chest/upper stomach and continue about my business.

I’m actually working on trying to get the feeling from a physical place up to my actual brain. My therapist was telling me about that yesterday. Like, I’ll claw at my chest in my personal sign languagey attempt to describe what I’m feeling, but I think she was saying I don’t do anything with it in my brain. (Similarly, when I “self-sooth,” ie rock back and forth or twist up my hands, I have to think about it consciously, because I usually just do those things without trying to breathe instead…I think?)

I try to find words to describe this nonsense, too. I struggle with that. I can rate my mood on a scale of depressed to my version of manic, but sometimes it doesn’t translate into wordsssss. I made this list of potential words, though.

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Like I swear. When I woke up I felt “hopeful, content, and (appropriately) energetic.” And now I’m like, “overloaded, mopey, and (for some reason) stressed.” The fuck just happened? What even is anxiety? (I know the answer to that, but still)

I’m just gonna try to take this morning one thing at a time. I don’t work til 1, so I have a really good chunk of time to just do me. I’m gonna try not to be pulled in 15 directions by every different thought I have, I’m gonna try to be motivated but about one thing at a time.

Also, gonna play this game I downloaded on Steam called Kind Words, which is literally just sending letters back and forth to people who need encouragement and support. It plays peaceful music and it’s just so positive.

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Aaaaanywho…I hope everyone has a good day ❤

aftermath.

There’s always a sort of cleanup that needs to be done after an episode, isn’t there? Piles of laundry to do because you’ve neglected them while depressed or manic. Tons of other chores. I guess some people have lots of things to return to various stores when finally thinking clearly enough to regret reckless spending. Not to mention apologies to be made. For like, not answering texts or being distant or even an outright jerk. Stuff of that nature.

I don’t think I fucked up TOO much over the last 2ish weeks. I ignored texts. Called out of work like 3 times (more on my utter failure in regards to jobs in a moment). Snapped at one or two people. I have tremendous guilt about all of that. But mostly I just slept and cried and neglected a few household chores, so overall I’m not in too bad shape.

But I still feel like there’s major emotional cleanup to be done. There’s debris scattered everywhere in my recently-normalized mindset (as normalized as it ever was, anyway). Everything has been blown miles away from where it started and now I can barely remember what goes where. I still have the fear of another episode happening, and now that I’m (pretty much) better, I don’t know what to do with that fear. It’s an out-of-whack thing to carry emotionally. I can’t explain it. And I’m still confused about what in the fuck actually happened, because as much as I can write about it and try to make sense of it or whatever, what actually happens to make me want to drop off the face of the damn earth? What just occurred, because it’s all a blur to me. Aaaaaand of course, there’s that guilt I don’t know how to deal with. I literally spent DAYS just sobbing. Lots of which was done in public. And portions of that done at work. I’m not embarrassed. I really couldn’t give a shit if people see me as some random chick sobbing in pain. That’s basically what I am: some random chick sobbing in pain. But I probably should be embarrassed. It’s more guilt, though. Or just feeling stupid and inadequate. I should be able to function in my shitty ass job and I should be able to handle the stupid fucking responsibilities I have.

It’s also confusing because I feel too much. And I’m not sure all that makes its way up to my brain. Makes processing and cleaning up those emotions a lot more difficult. There’s a disconnect that once again I’m incapable of explaining, at least at this moment.

I dunno. I’m glad I’m coming out of the darkness into the light again. I’m glad to be basically certain that I’m almost out of the woods. Maybe during this next spurt of sanity I’ll be able to figure more of this nonsense out so I’ll be able to use it…next time.

(Maybe next time will come much much later, and clearly I’m in for another med adjustment, but like…yeah)

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How can I reconcile positivity with the inherently bad feelings I can’t control?

I’m trying to stay positive, and I’m trying to internalize the meaning of the words I wrote yesterday and that I’ve written on so many days prior. The ones that try to put some sort of purpose to the bad days, those terrible, terrifying days. I’m trying. But how can I reconcile all that with all this:

“right so I thought this particular episode might have been fucking over, but i dunnoooo about that. like i had a really good morning yesterday and i thought things were going smoothly. got to work and was hit with a sickening amount of anxiety bc that place disgusts me in a way i cannot begin to describe. but as sick as i felt (and as exhausted as i was from two weeks of being tortured by the piece of shit brain i have knocking around in my skull), i was thinking i could make it a good day. freaked out when i realized i had to stay longer than i thought i’d have to. holding back tears, wanted to die, same old bullshit. i survived and that’s great, and i didn’t have a TOTAL meltdown which i guess is an improvement. but today i’m irritable and fucking fuckkkk and i’m terrified that this fucking bullshit is just gonna repeat itself continually and without at least giving me the mercy of a break in between. so yeah. have to survive today. and tomorrow. and the next day. i’m off Friday and Saturday, so those’ll be good day (i mean, nothing is guaranteed, obv, but at least i’ll have two days to sob and hide away completely if need be). i’m ignoring the knot in my stomach. i’m ignoring the overwhelming feeling that something nondescript is wrong, so very very wrong. i’m fine. i’m alive. i’m not in physical danger. i’m sitting with the feeling and naming it and it’s there but i’m more than it. is this fake ass positivity fooling anyone? cause it ain’t fooling me”

I’m confused. I know I have to attribute a lesson to the pain because otherwise just strap me up and throw me in a padded fucking room. And I know I have to try to have a good attitude because wallowing in self-pity just isn’t a way to go through life.

But tell me…How. Am. I. Supposed. To. Do. That.

I’m gonna try to figure it out. Look at this nonsenseeee logically (if I can). Maybe do what I love to do and make a list.

I just really really hope that I can work on being so goddamn happy and grateful and calm during the times when I’m not in, active crisis, not in the depths of an episode, that it sticks with me during the bad times. I’m picturing it like an ice pick, for some reason? Like, if I can puncture the depression with an ice pick preemptively, maybe they’ll be less…earth-shattering? I’m not saying they’ll be less intense (I’m fairly certain the past like, 5 or 6 episodes, they’ve gotten progressively worse). I’m not even saying I’m gonna be able to avoid them (they’re inevitable, although I do have hope that they’ll be fewer and farther between). But if I use sane moments to create something to puncture it all with, I dunno, maybe that’ll be the “coping skill” that’ll finally help me for reals.

Also, in this moment of fucking brain-melt, it’s somehow comforting to picture my body pierced by an ice pick, stabbed right through my brain or even my heart. Violence is oddly helpful for me. I think it captures the intensity better. Same reason I love cursing (even though people assume those who curse like I do aren’t as intelligent because we “can’t find better words”). I feel those words in my soul. And I feel the graphic violence (metaphorically) in who I am. I’m not gonna stab myself obviously. And maybe this is a terrible way to end this post. But hey, it’s my blog. At least I have control over THAT.

Find a safe space

You’re having a panic attack, struggling to see straight, calm your racing thoughts, slow your pounding heart, and breathe. You tell yourself you’re okay. You aren’t in actual, physical danger. But something triggered your alarm system, which sent a message to your amygdala, which made all this shit happen in your body in order to keep you safe. Too bad the danger lives more internally than externally. Still, your fight-or-flight instinct has taken over (even though you can’t run from or fight the source of your crippling anxiety), and adrenaline is surging through you, all because we inherited such a response from our ancestors thousands of years ago and our brain systems just haven’t caught the fuck up. So what do you DO?

You can try to force yourself into breathing normally. Inhale slowly, hold it, exhale slowly, hold it. Repeat. Repeat. Or you can try to “ground” yourself, to reconnect with the fact that you’re exactly where you are, here and now, to live in this present moment instead of the impending future. You can try (almost desperately) to distract yourself. Solving math problems is great for that. So are word puzzles. Your brain can’t focus on figuring things out and panicking at the same time. The same is true of experiencing a rapid and drastic change in temperature. Take an icy cold shower if you can. Your brain will stop processing the paralyzing fear you’re experiencing (or so I’m told). The scent of lavender is supposed to be calming, but personally, I open a familiar perfume bottle and breathe in the comfort it carries for me. I always use that perfume before I do happy, relaxing things. So I’ve (almost) effectively trained my brain to associate it with happiness and relaxation.

But something that’s been particularly interesting to me lately is visualization. A kind of intense mental imagery. A purposeful relocation to a safe place.

I have a pretty active imagination. Maybe that’s the writer in me, but I have a particular proclivity for getting myself lost in whatever place I’m thinking of. Like, I force myself there. I picture everything vividly, paying careful attention to detail. I mentally feel the sensations that accompany that place. I let myself experience the feelings that would go along with being there.

Sometimes it’s a made-up place in a random, made-up scenario. Sometimes it’s an actual place in a scenario I wish would happen there. There are the typical escapes. The beach, with sun shining, the waves crashing, the smell of sunblock wafting through the air. And the perhaps less typical cozy cafe, with a good cup of coffee and a book I’m completely absorbed in. A lot of times it’s a memory that, a moment in my past that I’d love to go back to. (Again, that might be the writer in me; I love the quote “we write to taste life twice,” and I think reliving memories is another way to do that)

I haven’t had a full-on, gasping, clutching, gut-wrenching panic attack in about a month. And after being prescribed an as-needed benzodiazepine about two months ago, I definitely feel more in control of those situations. Knowing I have a pill in my bag that can alleviate those sickening physical symptoms is often enough to reduce the unrelenting (and usually unnecessary) fear. And if that isn’t enough, I put the pill in my mouth and swallow.

But I’m still an anxious person. That probably won’t ever change. So I’m trying to get this visualization thing set in my mind so I can get a better handle on my general, day-to-day anxiety. I’m trying to set up predetermined safe places that I can teleport to at a moment’s notice. So here’s my attempt at collecting them and getting them ready for use:

Disney World. The Happiest Place on Earth. In any park, with any loved one, either in memory or projection. Perhaps it’s the Magic Kingdom on Main Street USA in the early morning with my parents and sister. There’s time-appropriate music playing from seemingly nowhere, and we’ve just turned the corner to see Cinderella Castle standing majestically in the distance, and I feel like I’m Home, like nothing else matters because this moment is perfect. The love I feel around me is palpable. The excitement is tangible. All is well.

Driving down Ocean Parkway, looping from one Long Island beach to another, singing loudly to a crazy array of music with the man who’d soon become my boyfriend. It’s late at night and we’ve been driving for hours, alternating between deep conversations and enjoying the fact that our tastes in music are so similar. I’m calm and happy and fulfilled.

The bookstore. Summer 2010, the summer I really came into my own. My best friend just walked in the door and we greet each other by immediately launching into talking about exciting plans and things to try and what’s been going on since we’ve seen each other a day ago. We get matching cups of coffee and sit by the window and we bounce ideas off each other while simultaneously bouncing off the walls. When we’ve exhausted that, we wander the bookstore, admiring the books we hope to buy, feeling the peace that comes with being surrounded by such an awesome amount of written knowledge. Things are good.

Christmas morning. My parent’s living room. The day that we’ve been anticipating for an entire season. Surrounded by my family and presents, the Yule Log on the TV, love and laughter and magic filling the entire room. It feels right.

I’m at a concert venue about to see my favorite band play. My friends and I are standing by the mosh pit, being bumped by someone dancing in circles every now and then, and we’re all screaming the lyrics to the songs we know by heart. The music fills my entire soul and leaves me feeling energetic in the best way. They start playing my favorite song. Then the singer cuts out and he points the mic into the crowd so that the crowd can take over the song. We’re all different but also so similar, most of us with tattoos and dyed hair and checkered vans and band t-shirts and the like. I feel connected and important.

It’s Monday morning and I just sat down in my therapist’s office, on the floor by the window, where we can watch the clouds go by and the wind blow through the trees and the cars driving by. But we’re talking about important things and processing the chaos that is my life, and occasionally veering off topic to easier things, and oftentimes looking at funny memes. I’m wiggly and all over the place, but there’s safety and comfort sitting across from me so it’s okay.

I’m in our room, sitting there on the bed under my weighted blanket, laptop propped up on a pillow, and I’m scrolling tumblr. He’s sitting next to me, and every 10 seconds we stop to show each other something stupid we stumbled across online. We’ve been sitting there for like an hour in relative silence, but it’s the epitome of what love looks like. I don’t have to worry about anything because he’s there and he understands and he loves me.

My favorite places, my favorite moments. There are more, of course. And I’m sure throughout my life I’ll continue finding ones to add to the list. But for now, I’m gonna try to remember that I have these to escape to whenever the need arises.