After giving it much thought I thought I would address a lot of the questions I’ve gotten on my YouTube channel on my blog. “Where have you been?” “Why haven’t you been posting?” “Are you ok?” are just some of the many questions I’ve received on my videos every single time I post.
So where have I been? Right here. Maybe that’s a silly answer but to me it doesn’t feel as though I’ve gone anywhere. I feel like I’ve been right here unable to move while everything around me keeps going.
I don’t like to talk about these kinds of things because I’m generally a “happy”person. I don’t like being the person in the group who’s always sad or always has a problem but I can’t help feeling like that’s where I’ve been.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I didn’t know what was wrong but things always felt really off. I was never able to complete things long term because no matter how much I tried or how excited I was about it – I would always change my mind. People used to think I was indecisive but it was more than that. To be fair, I always kept to myself so maybe nobody noticed how bad things really were. That is until I moved in with my boyfriend. He was always there, and I couldn’t hide anymore.
It only took a month. I remember the exact moment when I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. My behavior just wasn’t normal anymore, and funny enough it was all because of a cat. Yes. A cat. Let’s backtrack a moment.
When I started making money I would go on these huge spending sprees, and one day I decided I wanted a dog. So I got one. I found an ad on craigslist went and got the dog and came back 4 hours later with a Yorkie. I rang the doorbell and my mom opened the door. Surprise! It was unexpected but I guess nobody thought anything of it. We kept the dog, went and got bowls, food, a bed. Took her to the vet but within two weeks I couldn’t stand the dog anymore. I gave her away. A few weeks after that, I did it again. I told everyone I was allergic to Yorkie’s and needed a Maltese. I convinced everyone around me. The Maltese lasted a month, and she was gone again. I gave away five dogs. When I moved out I came to the realization…hey maybe I’m just not a dog person. I’m a cat person. We rescued a cat from the shelter, and I did the same thing again. I remember my boyfriend just couldn’t understand why I wanted to give the cat away, and I thought about it. But I couldn’t think of a good reason. All my life I made up these great big lies about why I did the things I did and in that moment I no longer had an excuse.
I remember sitting in the psychologists office for a few weeks, but just like with everything else I would convince myself and everyone around me that I was fine. I didn’t need therapy…there are people doing a lot worse than me. I would show my boyfriend and family articles. Look, those people are sick. Not me.
I became extremely impulsive, even more than before. I wanted to do everything and all at once. On a trip to the bank I saw an advertisement for home loans. A few hours later I was pre-approved and announced to my boyfriend we were buying the house. Being completely honest, it wasn’t the worst thing I could have done with my money but the reason why wasn’t ideal. With every new “idea” I would get I would convince myself that I needed it. If I get this I’m finally going to be happy. We got the house and I fell into a “slump,” as I called it. Nothing made me happy. I spent most of my days sitting in my bed on Facebook. One day I told my boyfriend I didn’t want to live anymore. As I’m writing this, I’m just thinking back to such a dark time in my life. I truly can’t put into words how miserable I felt at the time. If you have ever felt at rock bottom, just hated yourself so much…like there was nothing else to live for…I was there too. I sat in my closet crying for no real reason. It wasn’t the first time I had been suicidal but it was the first time I noticed what I was doing to my boyfriend. It wasn’t fair. So I tried the therapy again with someone else.
“What is your biggest problem?” my therapist asked. “Sometimes I wake up and its like I’m a completely different person with new dreams and goals.” I had rehearsed it a million times. I was nervous. My therapist told me I should get a planner and stick to a schedule, track how I’m feeling everyday. (That’s where my Today I… section kind of originated) Sounds easy enough, right? A few months before, I had bought an Erin Condren planner I found from Elle Fowler, so why not? It wasn’t easy. But it made me realize when I was going off track. I would sit down every night and plan my days. I would have good days that I would cross everything off my list and then I would go days without writing down anything. That’s when “the other Ashley” was there.
I used stickers from Krissy Anne Designs and Organized Stickers to track my “habits.” I remember Kristin (of KAD) used to make some Erin Condren event stickers, and Jennifer had a habit tracker I would stick in the bottom of my planner and that would pretty much dictate my life. I felt so guilty when I didn’t follow them. Shortly I started making my own stickers and made a sticker shop with my mom. It sounds stupid, but it gave me so much purpose. My mom was depending on me, I couldn’t let her down. I had always been creative but truthfully my mom was always the one keeping me going. Design this, design that. I used to joke around she had me chained to my desk in a sweat shop just designing things all day.
We started identifying the days when “the other Ashley” would come out, and I learned how to deal with her and make her go away. Those days still came, but I always worked hard. My therapist used to compare my issues to that of an alcoholic. She told me alcoholics don’t magically “heal.” The temptation is always there but you have to fight for it. Nobody can do that for you.
That was two years ago this month. I could sit here all day and tell you about all of the mistakes and all of the issues that I caused. My boyfriend needed to get help in order to deal with me, I couldn’t finish school in time. I almost got expelled from university for the amount of times I withdrew from classes. I got into huge debts. I created major problems in my family. I was flaky. I was irresponsible. I screwed up so many times on Etsy. I stressed everyone out. Many times I told myself life would be so much easier if I was gone and felt so hopeless because “I’m already 24 and haven’t done anything with my life.”
This past year, I still struggled a lot. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I started getting back into designing and just enjoying life again. My planner spreads never have “empty days” anymore. But I’d still get that feeling that maybe I had screwed up too many times and it was too late for me. A few weeks ago, I went to a planner convention in New Orleans, Wild for Planners. I met hundreds of wonderful women. Women that have accomplished incredible things and women who are still in the process of accomplishing incredible things. That’s when I realized that maybe I had a few setbacks but… I still have time. There’s still time to accomplish everything I want to accomplish. Not only did I hear success stories, I heard failure stories. So many successful women had to be knocked down so many times before they reached success. Sometimes you have to step back and realize that no matter how far you have fallen, you can always get back up.
It really stuck with me. After all of my struggles I’ve finally started to find my path. So I guess the real answer to your question is I’ve been trying to find out who I am, and trying to find a way to forgive myself for all of my mistakes. Maybe “I’m already 24” but I think I’ve accomplished a lot already.