Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl is a wonderful coming of age story about a Jewish girl growing up in Boston at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s told from the perspective of Addie Baum when she is old and telling her life-long tale of adventure, woe, determination, and love.
I was excited to read this, but I honestly didn’t have very high expectations, largely because I didn’t think I would be able to relate to the characters or situations as well as I could with other books. I also haven’t been much in the mood to read lately, so I didn’t want to force myself through another book. Reading the first five pages, I thought I was right and might end up trudging through the story, but once I got used to the writing style and to Addie’s voice, I found it to be easy and enjoyable to read. It’s rather fast paced the entire time, and Addie’s unique thought process and experiences as well as her form of story-telling made it fun and exciting to read.
I actually fell in love with this book and its characters, far more than I could’ve imagined. Addie’s determination to experience the world in a different way and to be educated reminded me of myself more than I would’ve dared possible. As I saw her pursue her education and becoming independent, I saw my own failures and successes. I cried with her, I laughed with her, I feared with her, and I cared with her. The amount of simple and blatant emotion that Diamant was able to pack into Addie’s interview with her granddaughter was overwhelmingly well done; and the creative wording, imagery, and simplicity of Addie’s life and way of talking about her life are beautiful and occasionally comical.
I sincerely didn’t want to put this book down or for it to end. From its terribly sad scenes to possibly the best meet cute in history, I was reliving Addie Baum’s life with her, celebrating new jobs, mourning the loss of loved ones, learning about child laborers, and pondering what it means to be oneself.
One of my favourite (many) favourite lines: “I thought I’d never fall asleep, but I was gone the minute I closed my eyes. I guess falling in love makes you tired. Or maybe it was all that walking.”
Goodness knows I let my anxiety overwhelm me on a regular basis. But even with moving into a house, still job searching, meeting so many people, and having so many things to accomplish, I have officially gone a month without a panic attack. That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt super anxious at all in the last month, but it’s still a huge improvement.
Over the last year I’ve been trying to recover from the worst general and social anxiety breakdown I’ve ever had. The panic attack that made me realise just how much I’d lost control was full of sobbing, hyperventilating, and feeling like I was going to die and lasted over an hour and a half. Thankfully I had a network of family and friends that dropped everything to come to my aid (in person and from a distance) over the days, weeks, and months that followed. I never imagined that my anxiety could get so bad, but that’s the thing—mental illnesses and their effects can be incredibly unpredictable. However, with practice and more help than you’ll probably want to ask for, they can be managed.
These are some of my favourite ways to help take control of my anxiety and depression, and I hope that they can help you too.
Surround yourself with things that make you happy.
For me this ranges from bright colours being scattered about my room and belongings and buckets worth of tea to books and Disney music. Whatever they are, find the things that make you most happy and make them obvious throughout your daily life. If it’s specific colours, find or make decorations for your room/house/apartment in those colours. If it’s a particular food or beverage, treat yourself. If it’s a show or movie, get posters or fan art to hang up in your room. If it’s music, sing it, dance to it, blare it through your speakers as you drive.
If you openly celebrate the things that make you happy, you’ll tend to feel happier.
Do breathing exercises.
There are so many types of breathing exercises and meditation that can help you relax and clear your mind. Many of the ones I know I originally learned because of my heart and lung problems. One of my favourites is breathing in deeply through your nose for five seconds, holding it for six seconds, and exhaling through your nose for eight seconds. Another is tucking your thumb inside your fist, putting it up to your mouth and breathing as if you were blowing up a balloon. You may feel a little ridiculous, but it helps so much.
Get plenty of sleep.
This might be really difficult and sometimes requires sleep aids, but getting enough sleep can make the world of a difference in how you respond mentally. When I don’t get enough sleep, I am far more anxious and terrified, and it’s easier for me to feel the overwhelming, numbing sadness. This happened just a couple days ago and when combined with a few other circumstances it caused me to start slipping mentally. I felt awful. It was one of those days where I wished I could slip into non-existence for a while and be consumed by nothingness as well as where I was so scared that I didn’t want to and nearly couldn’t do anything. Part of the reason I felt so bad was because I had gotten less sleep the previous night, and if I had, it would have been able to break out of those negative thoughts.
Talk to your friends/family.
This may seem like common sense, but for me, it is actually one of the most difficult things to do. My anxiety tends to make me believe that no one would ever want to talk to me or hear from me, that I’m a burden, that I am an annoyance. But lately I’ve made a point of talking to specific people every day. I want people to know that they are cared for, even if I do get annoying. But also, if I talk to them on a regular basis, it’s far more difficult for me to believe that they don’t want to talk to me. I know on occasion they may not want to, but that is rare, and it’s okay. Talking to my friends and family, spreading love, and being open with them has changed my life.
Go to a counsellor/therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist.
I haven’t been able to do this in a while because of not having a car among other reasons, but whenever I go to my counsellor, even if I’m feeling wonderful that day, I leave feeling ten times better, unburdened, and hopeful. I know this isn’t always the case and I am incredibly blessed to have the counsellor I have, but it can be such a huge help to have someone separate from your everyday life to talk to and to occasionally give you advice (and medication when needed and appropriate).
Read inspirational quotes.
I always feel a little silly and embarrassed when doing this, but it is one of the things that has kept me going throughout the last year. I even make frequent use of a mug that says “Think happy, be happy” on it that I got during my last stay in France. I had been having a difficult time, and it reminded me of a video by Carrie Hope Fletcher about positive thinking. Although I don’t believe that you can truly choose to be happy and then feel that way, I do believe in the power of positive thinking, even if it is fallible. Finding inspirational quotes and writing or printing them out and posting them where you can see them throughout the day can be incredibly encouraging and help you remember how special, important, capable, and loved you are.
Find a hobby.
This can seem incredibly overwhelming to some, and that’s okay. But finding something you do on a regular basis for your own enjoyment is such a huge relief and help for controlling anxiety. I tend to go a little overboard and have far too many hobbies, but I am also rather fickle and whatever hobby I do bases entirely on my mood. I could crochet, write, knit, paint, draw, colour, study languages, or make videos. But whatever hobby I choose is an outlet for me to work creatively and freely to escape or express my anxiety and depression, whether other people can tell or not.
Writing out whatever is overwhelming you and then destroying it or finding a way to make it positive is one of the practises I do quite frequently. It can help you vent fear, sadness, anger, disappointment, and everything else in a healthy way while also helping you to either rid yourself of the thoughts or situation or find a way to turn the thoughts or situation to your advantage.
For every negative thought or impulse, list five positive things about yourself and/or the situation you’re in.
This self-explanatory one is big for me. I constantly have incredibly overwhelming fears and negative thoughts and occasionally negative impulses. When I list five positive things, I can usually see the unreality of the negative thoughts and fears immediately and cause them to dissipate, even if they don’t go away entirely. But even if the positive things don’t have that effect, you are still finding things to love about yourself, and if you focus on those, then you can not only change your world, but the worlds of those around you.
What are some ways that you manage your anxiety, depression, and other disorders? Let me know in the comments! ❤︎