Saturday, 31 December 2016

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017!

It's been a while since my last post. I feel like I've said that too many times this year.
2016 has gone by in a blur. A surreal, sadistic blur. There are tons of memes on Facebook about how much 2016 sucks, and I've got to say I agree. It's been a bad year for me, too, for reasons that I can't admit on the internet, reasons that only three or four people in my life know.

Yes, 2016 was good for me, too, as I'll discuss later on in the post. But at this point, I'm going to have to rack my brains to remember, because all I can see is the grey cloud that still looms over me.

Alas, the past is the past, and there's nothing we can do about how shitty 2016 was. But it's the last day of the year! A fresh start is upon us! What could be better?

So here goes: the good and the ugly of 2016. Let's go.

The Good Memories

1) New House + Same Roommate

Last year I told you about my wonderful roommate and my beautiful room. Well, that hasn't changed, except now I have a room of my own in a new house, and a lot more privacy. My roommate's still the same, which I'm very thankful for, because she is the absolute best friend I could have ever asked for.
As for my new room... plenty of posters, glow-in-the-dark stars, yellow curtains PLUS sea green curtains, a tiny bed, a couch, and a study room... you get the picture. Lovely.

2) Fresh Diagnosis
I finally got the proper diagnosis and the treatment that I deserve, and I'm happy to say that my life is... normal now. With the right medication and the right therapy, I'll never have to worry about my mental health again. :)

3) Book Five?!

I spent all of 2015 working on Not That Kind of Girl, and I'm plenty proud of it, but I'm prouder about the fact that 2016 brought to me Always You, Love Thy Neighbour and my current work-in-progress, The Year I Fell in Love. This has been a wonderful year for writing - and maybe that's why I've been neglecting you, dear readers. Hopefully that'll change in the new year.

4) My Business
I've talked about my editing business previously, so I won't go into too much detail, but Feb 2016 is when the magic happened and the epiphany struck: if you're good at something, never do it for free. And that's how I started critiquing and editing books for a living. Wonderful, innit?

See, all this stuff is great, but I can't think of anything else. Let's just move on to the bad.

The Bad Memories

1) My Grades...

I got a disappointing GPA of 2.7 in my fourth semester, bringing my CGPA down from 3.67 to 3.4, and even though it's now settled at 3.35, I can't help but wonder how the girl who came second in first year with 3.71 is now just... above average.
But hey, it was a trade-off. Mental health or marks? I picked mental health, and that was the right decision to make. So yeah. That's my silver lining.

I promise you there's a lot more serious stuff - legitimate stuff - that I can only talk about in therapy or with my best friends - so I can assure you that this year has not been rainbows and sunshine for me, either. I remember 2015 me thinking, well, it can't get any worse, can it? Well, 2016 sure beat you to it, 2015.

But I know for a fact 2017 is going to be better. I have so much to look forward to! Graduation, my sister's wedding, moving back to Bangalore (hopefully, at least), setting up my business, maybe getting some response from publishers... there's a lot to look forward to, and I hope that this time next year, these will be the things that form part of my "good memories".

Tomorrow, I go back to Mumbai, ready for a fresh start. A clean slate. With the knowledge that yes, this time, and I can say this for sure, it can't possibly get worse. I hope...?

Well, Happy New Year to you, Geeks! I'll try being more active in 2017 - maybe that can be my resolution, to give more time to the things that matter instead of sleeping all day - though I can't make any promises, but I shall see you when I do.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

How to be a Happier Person

noun: happiness; plural noun: happinesses
the state of being happy.
"she struggled to find happiness in her life"

Funny how the example above is so true for most of us. Happiness isn't quite an emotion anymore, it's a goal. An almost unconquerable goal, at that. It's something we all strive for. Something we all chase. Something that may or may not be within us, but something we need to choose all the same.

I'm going to be honest here. It's not always easy being happy.

But it's worth a shot, isn't it?

I've struggled with happiness myself. Mostly because I'm not quite as emotionally stable as I'd like to be, so I tend to go back and forth, but I do like to think of myself as a positive, optimistic person. And so today, I'm going to tell you - and myself - six ways to start your journey as a happier person. Let's get started.

1) Create an Intention
First things first: decide to be happy. Okay, I know what you're thinking: "Swati, why on earth would I decide to be unhappy?" But think about it. It's so much easier - and somehow more satisfying to the sadist within - to be miserable and complaining and grumpy all the time, isn't it? Isn't that why most of us share those memes on Facebook about being unhappy or thinking about death as a way of comedic relief (something I never do, just so you know - I don't have a twisted sense of humour)?
So yes. I'm telling you to choose happiness over sadness. One way you can do this is to create an intention every morning. Wake up, look at yourself in the mirror as you're brushing your teeth, and say, "I choose to be happy." It may sound silly. But do it just the same. This is going to set the tone for the rest of your day, and give you a jumpstart into being a happier, more positive person. If you don't intend to be happy, none of these tips will work for you. I can guarantee that.

2) Don't Criticise

Oh, this is a tough one to fix. Criticism seems to be hard-wired into our brains. A defence mechanism, perhaps? I don't know. Anyway, we have a tendency to criticise each and every thing that we come across, no matter how amazing or perfect it may seem. Old aunties do this ("oh, that bride may be pretty, but she's too skinny - how will she bear children?), our parents do this ("why can't you be more like Sharmaji's son?") and we ourselves do it ("I hate that professor. Why is she always on her phone in class?"). I'm not saying those things aren't justified. Maybe they are; how would I know? But criticising changes nothing. Constructive criticism does, sure, but not the one we partake in.
So how can you become a less critical person? For that, head over to step 3.

3) On the Bright Side...
Do this exercise every time a negative thought or criticism enters your head: "On the bright side..." Want an example or two? "She's too skinny a bride, but on the bright side, she loves the groom so very much." "You may not be as smart as Sharmaji's son, but on the bright side, you're such a good photographer!" "That professor is always on her phone in class, but on the bright side, she doesn't mind us using ours!"
See how you turned that negative thought into a positive one? There's always a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. There's always a silver lining to a cloud. You just have to search for it. It's easier to criticise, sure, and it may feel satisfying at first... but in the long run, being resentful will get you nowhere.

4) Affirm It
There's this great blog post by Jeff Goins I read a few years ago about how he always said he wanted to be a writer... until his friend pulled him aside and said, "You are a writer. Just start writing."
Such a big shift in your mindset, isn't it? And it makes all the difference. If you want to be a happy person, stop just wanting it and start affirming it. Think of yourself as a happy, positive, magnetic person, and start attracting those vibes and that aura towards you. If you think, "Oh, I want to be happy, but I'm so negative," then you're going to stay negative. Remember, creating the intention is one thing. Affirming it is another.
You are a happy person. Just start being happy.

5) Be Grateful, Baby
If you've been following me on Instagram, you'd know that I'm big on gratitude. I recently completed the 28-day gratitude challenge from the book The Magic, and I can't say how much it's helped to shift my attitude to one of gratitude.
If you want to become a happier person tomorrow, you need to start being grateful for the things you already have today. Gratitude makes you happy - it's been scientifically proven. Positive psychology for the win!
So if you aren't already being grateful, start. Download apps like Attitudes of Gratitude or Bliss on your phone, both of which I've used and loved. Grab a diary and jot down ten things to be grateful for every day. Whether it's that first cup of coffee in the morning or a special person in your life or even the air you breathe, it doesn't matter as long as you're genuinely feeling grateful for it. Trust me, this will change the way you see things. It will make you happier. And I know it's tough. Some days, it's hard for me to get all ten items on the list. That's okay. List down as many as you can. It will make a difference. I promise.

6) Be Around Happy People
Now, I'm not saying you should ditch your friends in their time of need. No. Absolutely not. But there's a difference between a bad situation and a bad personality. Some people are highly negative, draining and exhausting to be around. They're a bad influence on you, period. On the other hand, some people - the ones who have already been following these tips - are full of joie de vivre and are so much fun to be around. Be around those people. Try to emulate their habits. Ask them what's their secret.
And if you can't let go of those negative people - maybe they're family, or your best friend, or your soulmate - then challenge them to do the gratitude practices with you. Maybe together, you can both become happier people. That's killing two birds with one stone, isn't it?

If you've enjoyed this blog post, go ahead and share it with your friends, especially the ones who you think can benefit from being happier. What are some of your tips for becoming a more positive person? What's the one random piece of gratitude from your list today? Mine is gratitude for "honey and almond cornflakes. I never realised how delicious they are!"

I'll see you soon, Geeks. Bye!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Philosophical Ramblings #5: What is Love?

Love. Pyaar. L'amour. Die Liebe. Different words, same meaning. Love. 

Love has been romanticized by books and movies so much that most of us don't even know what it means anymore, myself included. Besides, I romanticize love myself, through my writing. But what is love, really?

I've been wondering this for a while now. Well, I'm twenty years old, and I'm not sure if I've ever been in love or not. I'd thought I had a few times, but as time went by, I'd realise that whatever I felt was either infatuation or puppy love or simply obsession - none of which classifies as real, pure love. 

So let's take a look at what media tells us love is. Here's a speech by one of my favourite fictional characters, Ted Mosby, on love:

This is one of those speeches that convinces you that love means never giving up or never losing hope or even never moving on, no matter what. 

Well, I disagree. That's bordering on obsession, isn't it? But this seems to be a common theme when it comes to sitcoms and rom coms. Never giving up. Take a look at another speech, this time, by Chuck from Gossip Girl:

"You don't give up... even if the object of affection is begging you to." That, my friends, is obsession, not love. When it's love, you don't give up... unless your love is hurting the other person. Love is about knowing when to step down. Knowing when to move on. Knowing that maybe that other person should be able to choose who they want to be with. 

But I do agree that forgiveness and second chances are what make up a good relationship. A good friendship. A good parentship (is that a word?). Because mistakes are part of daily life. Big ones or small ones, it doesn't matter. Forgiveness is essential. But you have to know where to draw the line, and that's something a lot of fictional characters don't get, like in movies or TV shows where characters fall in love with their rapists or kidnappers

Then there's this speech. Again, along the same lines of never giving up... but it's spoken of in a healthier, purer way. And I'll admit this is one of my favourite movies, so there's a little bit of a bias here, but I do believe in soulmates. I believe in lobsters. I believe in the One. 

I guess I believe, because I don't want to not believe in it. Because screw logic. Screw the truth. Deep down, a part of me knows there are many Ones. Many people I could be happy with for the rest of my life. 

But I also know that probability-wise, I'm only ever going to meet one of them. And that, my friends, will be the One. That will be love. 

In short, I don't know what love is. Because I'm a clueless twenty-something just like many of you Geeks. But I'd like to believe it's a give-and-take. A symbiotic thing. Something built on respect and trust and kindness. That, I think, is love. Whether it's romantic love or family love or even love for your pet - that is what I think love is.

What are your views on this topic, Geeks? What do you think love is? Let me know in the comments below. 

PS: I've recently started my own editing business, called Geek Editing. Go like the Facebook page now, and (if you live in Mumbai) apply for the internship here!


Sunday, 25 September 2016

Why I've Been M.I.A. // Just a Random Update #11

I just realised that I haven't blogged in a very long time. Three months, to be exact. I think that's the longest hiatus I've ever taken. But it's a hiatus I had to take, because a lot has happened in these three months, both good and bad.

Let's talk the good first, because, well, it's good stuff. My freelance editing business is doing spectacularly well, and although the income isn't regular each month - for obvious reasons, it's freelancing - it's enough for me to be able to afford my rent, and then some. No more relying on my folks, people. Although my Dad does still pay most of my bills... but hey, I'm only twenty.

I've also FINALLY decided what to do with my life after I graduate from college. And maybe doing BBA wasn't the wrong decision after all, because I'm going to turn my freelancing career into a full-fledged business. Say hello to Geek Editing, Geeks! It's going to be an epic business that caters to all your editing and beta reading needs - and someday, even your publishing needs. My plan is to buy a domain name and set up a website, get more clients, make more money, hire some interns, and expand my business. I've already got my roommate into the beta reading biz as well, and hopefully she'll agree to join Geek Editing in due time.

In other news, I've made new friends in college. I now have people to eat lunch with and people to talk to when the professor isn't looking in my direction. And if you Geeks know me at all, you'd know that this is a very, very big deal for me.

My new apartment is great. I have a room all to myself, with a bed, a couch, a study area AND a bathroom. There are glow-in-the-dark stars, yellow curtains, tons of posters, my vision board and a bookshelf that will is already book-ended with books. What more could I want from a house, after all?

I'm also working on my fourth novel, Love Thy Neighbour, which revolves around love, friendship, YouTube and mental illness. It's still a work-in-progress, and I'm going to take at least another three or four months to finish it, but... stay tuned?

So those are all the positive reasons why I've been too busy to blog. Work is incredible. Super exhausting, but incredible. I'm so proud to call myself a workaholic. My idea of a good weekend? Working on multiple projects at once in the comfort of my beautiful home while texting my closest friends - and owning that shit, yo.

Now moving on to the one not-so-surprising negative change in my life.

I've spoken to you previously about my bipolar depression - a concept relatively unheard of, because most people either have depression or bipolar disorder, not some crazy combination of the two. But I did have rapid cycling depression, and my psychologist and psychiatrist were just as stumped as I was. But it was getting worse and worse no matter what cocktail of meds I was on. I went from being on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics to more anti-depressants to mood stabilisers and anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. And that was one too many, Geeks.

The prolonged use of anti-depressants finally brought on a manic episode that would have been impossible to control had my doctors not put me on mood stabilisers 'just in case'.

So to cut a long story short, I have officially been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Whether it's BP I or II is still a matter of discussion, because my latter episodes have all been hypomanic, but I don't know if that's because I stopped my Cipralex immediately following the mania or because I really do just have BP II disorder, and the mania was a one-off incident.

The mood stabiliser dosage I was on wasn't enough, though, because my rapid cycling depression turned into rapid cycling hypomania, with a new episode every week, and they were only getting worse. So my dosage was upped further, and now I'm happy to say that I'm finally, finally stable. I haven't had any episodes in over two months save for a one-off incident that happened because of some personal reasons, and my therapist even said that I could be off meds in about three years if I keep this up.

I'm still doing everything I can to fight bipolar disorder on my own: working out, colouring, keeping myself busy, working on my self-esteem and confidence... everything. But I would be lying if I said that I'm completely okay. I'm not. I still curse myself for having this mental illness in the first place. Even though I'm on the relatively mild end of the bipolar spectrum, I still wish, with all my heart, that I wasn't on said spectrum in the first place. But what's done is done, and there's nothing I can do about it except keep hoping that I'll overcome this sooner or later.

I'm also finding it pretty difficult to focus in college and complete my assignments on time. I don't know if it's because I've just given up on being a nerd-slash-perfectionist or because of some weird meds side effect (it's probably the former), but I don't even care. Bare minimum is all I'm aiming for. My mental health matters more than my marks. I've finally understood that.

Wow, this has been a pretty long blog post. Guess this makes up for all the long months that I was missing in action.

I think I'll be posting some more about bipolar disorder and mental health, because at least where I come from, people have absolutely NO IDEA what it's all about. I've seen people using the terms 'depressed', 'OCD' and 'bipolar' so loosely that it makes me want to rip their heads off. And no, I'm not exaggerating. I'm very passionate about psychology and mental illness, and you bet I'm going to spread more awareness about this topic.

I'm very open about my bipolar disorder in college. Most people in my class know, although they don't quite know what it's all about. I'm hoping that'll change soon. One of my professors found out recently, and I was surprised to know that she was actually quite knowledgeable on the subject. She was the first - okay, second - person I've met in my entire life, not counting my doctors, who actually knew what mania and depression truly mean without my having to explain it to them.

Anyway, I've been rambling for far too long. If you've stuck with me until the end, you get a slice of pizza.
I hope to see you soon, Geeks, whenever my schedule permits it. Maybe once a week? Maybe once a month? I don't know, but I can guarantee that I'll be back. Au revoir!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

My Almost-Orthorexia Story

This may be a pretty controversial topic... and let me admit straight-up that I know almost nothing about orthorexia. I may be completely wrong here when I say all these things. But that's okay, because at least I'm saying something about it.

Oh, and before you judgemental non-Geeks start spouting bullshit about how of course I'm "anorexic" because I'm skinny and underweight, look again. I'm talking about orthorexia, not anorexia.

Orthorexia nervosa is defined as an unhealthy obsession with 'healthy' foods and an almost exaggerated fear of eating or being around junk food, often causing physical symptoms. Now I'm all for eating a healthy diet and giving your body the nutrition it deserves, but I must say that orthorexia has pretty much butchered my lifestyle, and I'm still dealing with the consequences. 

I started on my 'eat clean' journey sometime last year, perhaps in July 2015. I was obsessed with the idea of gaining weight on a high-protein, high-calorie diet, and while that may or may not have been the right approach - I'm no fitness expert, I have no idea - the way I was going about it was extremely wrong. I started restricting myself to certain food items only, not because I wanted to be healthier, but because I genuinely believed that those foods would cause me physical and mental harm. I tried to give up eating cheese, butter and milk, and the more I avoided those foods, the more my body would start to reject them. I'd get gassy or get nauseated or even throw up. I'd feel queasy every time I had a French fry. I would shame myself and pat my bloated stomach in regret after having a burger or a slice of pizza. I would sometimes even cry as I ate a chocolate waffle and then immediately throw the remaining half of it in the dustbin because I was so, so upset about how much I was 'damaging' my body.

You guys might know of the concept of 'cheat meals' or 'YOLO meals'. Well, I tried hard to give myself that break. But even eating a YOLO meal on Sunday would make me feel like a fitness failure, and that would only lead to me binge-eating junk food and shaming myself even further, then going weeks and weeks without eating anything remotely unhealthy. I didn't care about the taste or the culinary delight anymore. All I cared about was eating food that would give me a flat tummy and chiselled muscles. 

Obviously, with that attitude, that didn't happen. I don't have a flat stomach. I've been working out for years and I don't have perfect muscles. Heck, except for a tiny bicep on my right arm and some stellar calves, I don't have anything to show for myself.

Well, unless you count how much stronger and more flexible and happier I've become because of working out. And hey, doesn't that matter more than what exercise and my diet has done or not done for my appearance?

So I've started to let myself eat what I want to, whenever I want to, as long as I'm eating healthy and nutritious food at the same time. Cheese and butter are okay. So are vegetables and fruits and bread and pizza and rice noodles and regular noodles and chocolate and peanut butter and jam and eggs and even French fries dipped in hot sauce.

Everything is okay in moderation. Everything. And that applies to not just food, but other things, too. It's going to take me some time before I completely accept my body for what it is without having to give up food that makes my soul happy. But that's okay. Because I'm going to be patient.

What kinds of food have you always feared, Geeks? And are your fears rational or just a figment of your imagination, fuelled by those fitness and diet articles and videos that are rampant everywhere on social media? What do you wish you could change about your mental perception? Let me know in the comments below. 

I'll see you soon, Geeks. Bye!