10 Random Facts About Me

The best thing about you is your uniqueness. Even if you’re a twin, there’s no one else on the planet who is YOU. I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block lately, so today, I’m going to share 10 random facts about me. To stay inspired, I find that reconnecting with who I am & what I love is always the best solution to get my creative juices flowing again. These facts are completely random & in no particular order.

When I was in preschool, I pulled the fire alarm, despite being specifically taught that it was not a toy & only for fire emergencies.

When my brother was born, I started to act like a little rebel to get attention. While I was only 3.5 years old, I have a clear memory in my head of asking the yard duty during morning playtime if I could go inside to get the dollhouse that I brought from home that day. As I grabbed my dollhouse from my cubby, I distinctly remember pausing & looking up at the red metal fire alarm. I set my dollhouse down, then climbed on top of the cubby shelves & pulled the alarm trigger. As soon as the alarm sounded, I grabbed my dollhouse & ran out of the side door to escape the scene of the crime. No one knew that I was the one who pulled the alarm, but we had another group discussion about not pulling the fire alarm later that afternoon.

I love learning & school so much that I cry when I’m sick & not able to attend.

From Kindergarten through 8th grade, I attended a private Catholic school, St. Robert’s. I excelled in every subject & was consistently at the top of my class. We had hot lunches every Wednesday, & each grade would rotate computer day, library day, & PE day. In the 5th grade, I had computer class, library, PE, & hot lunch all on Wednesdays. It quickly became my favorite day of the week. This particular Wednesday morning, while my parents were on vacation in the Philippines, I woke up feeling terrible. Ultimately, I threw up & ugly cried to my older cousin, who was watching us while my parents were out of town, about NEEDING to go to school that day. Thinking about all the fun I missed that day still haunts me because I maintained perfect attendance every year that followed.

I didn’t realize that choosing to not do your homework was an option until high school.

I’m a proud nerd who always did her homework, reading, & class projects as soon as she got home from school. The only thing I procrastinated with was writing essays, but I’ve always been a good writer. I usually form a general outline of what I want to write in my head then bust out a paper in as little as 30 minutes the night before the writing assignment was due. Other kids proactively choosing to not do their homework was foreign to me, until I went to a public high school. The way teachers would publicly shame kids for not doing their homework in front of the entire class still irks me to this day.

I love BRUNCH!

It’s a favorite weekend pastime of mine to skip early morning breakfast to combine breakfast & lunch together while drinking bottomless mimosas, foamy cappuccinos, or spicy bloody marys with friends. If anyone wants to grab a meal with me to catch up, brunch is ALWAYS my first suggestion. I’ve even hosted themed brunches for my friends.

If there’s a breakfast burrito available on the brunch menu, I’m ordering it.

My love of breakfast burritos starts with my memory of getting McDonald’s breakfast with my paternal grandmother. I used to sleep over at her apartment over the weekend with my siblings, & on the mornings that we’d go out for breakfast, I always order the two sausage burrito meal with a hash brown & a small orange juice. In fact, if I’m ever getting McDonald’s breakfast now as an adult, I still order the same thing. Brunch menus can be overwhelming, especially when I’m trying out a new place. As a rule of thumb, if there’s ever a breakfast burrito on the menu, I think of my grandmother as if she’s helping me make a decision & order it in her memory.

My favorite breakfast meat is a circle sausage patty.

When I used to live with my brother, he used to always wake up early to cook us breakfast. Over meals, my brother & I would always get into random topics & deep conversations. One morning we discussed our favorite breakfast meats & that’s how I discovered that I love sausages, but even more so when they’re shaped in a circle rather than the standard sausage link. I even prefer to buy a sausage roll to create my own circle sausage patties to create that perfect sear on each side. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I love deep conversations & hate small talk.

Piggybacking off of my previous fact, I hate small talk i.e. “How’s work?” & “What are you up to this weekend?” Instead, I’d rather talk to people about things with real substance, so that we can get to know each other on a deeper level. Once, my brother & I discussed which level of hell we belong in based on Dante’s Inferno, while I watched him play the Dante’s Inferno video game on PlayStation. I love learning about another person on a deeper level. I love how everyone thinks & sees themselves in a different way, so I prefer to get a glimpse into a person’s true nature by seeing the way their mind works through a deep discussion.

As a former bank teller, I organize the cash in my wallet by aligning the president faces in the same direction.

I hate when someone hands me cash & the bills are unorganized & facing every which way. I immediately restack the cash that I’ve been handed before placing it in my wallet. I’m also usually the go-to when combining cash when planning to pay for a large group at a restaurant. I’m always able to quickly collect everyone’s cash, reorganize the bills, count the bills effortlessly, & give anyone change with ease as needed. If anyone is considering being a bank teller, I say go for it! I learned so many valuable professional skills in my three years as a bank teller.

I always fold my laundry straight out of the dryer & put it away immediately.

While I prefer to keep my spaces clean & tidy, I tend to get lazy when it comes to my laundry.  Washing & drying is not the problem… it’s folding, hanging, & putting my clothes away that gets to me. In the past, when I didn’t fold my laundry straight out of the dryer, my clothes would end up staying unfolded, wrinkled & sitting in a hamper for a week or even worse, until my next laundry day came around because I would just pull whatever I need from the clean hamper. By folding & putting everything away straight out of the dryer, my clothes are always wrinkle-free & neatly organized.

I prefer the aisle seat when traveling.

Most people love the window seat, but the aisle seat has so many more perks in my opinion. I’m a very light sleeper, & I have sleep apnea. I’m usually not able to sleep on long flights, so I love that I can freely get up to use the bathroom or stretch my legs without disturbing anyone. I also have more legroom with the aisle once drinks, snacks, & meals have been served.

I hope these 10 random facts about me give you all a deeper look into my mind & allow you to feel like you know me better. Personally, I feel like I have the best meditations, readings, & sound baths with people that I feel I really know as opposed to a stranger that I’ve never interacted with.

When you exchange energy with someone, it allows them to feel more connected with you & you’re both able to effortlessly tap into each other’s energy. With that said, I hope that this glimpse into my past, who I am, & what I love compels you to book a personal reading because you feel closer to me. Always embrace who you are & what you love. No one else gets to tell your story, so share it as often as possible to anyone who will listen.

XO Denise

bright sky with fluffy clouds

Emotional Intelligence

Even though I identify as a Sith on the Dark Side of the Force, I try to be a Jedi when it comes to controlling my emotions. I am no longer an emotionless robot without feelings, but I still rarely let my emotions affect my behavior or my decisions. As a young professional, I feel that emotional intelligence is far more valuable in the workplace than IQ. It’s not enough to be smart anymore. Emotional intelligence helps you connect with others in the workplace & in your personal life, ultimately helping you maintain a successful work/life balance.

Five years ago, my sister had a “Lunch & Learn” at work discussing emotional intelligence, & it absolutely fascinated & inspired me. Over dinner that night, I couldn’t help but engage my sister further on the topic, hoping to gain more insight. Emotional intelligence is something that I value highly & work toward improving every day. Too often, we bring the emotions at home to work or vice-versa. When an individual isn’t able to control their emotions it can impact their ability to communicate & throw off their work/life balance. Emotions are a key driver of day-to-day behavior, so it’s important to become more self-aware of your feelings & keep them under control.

Being bullied as a child created residual emotions that I still struggle to control as an adult, including depression, fear, & insecurity. I didn’t always have a high EQ, but I hope to continue to improve my EQ throughout my lifetime. Learning to be more self-aware of my emotions allows me to deal with them head-on, despite adversity.


  • It doesn’t have to be full-blown depression, but simply “feeling down” on most days doesn’t feel good. There will be days when your energy will be lower than normal. You’ll worry too much, feel distracted, & just not feel “up” to doing anything that you normally would enjoy. On my bad days, I just want to stay in bed all day & take lots of naps.


  • Whether it’s introducing yourself to a stranger or bungee jumping, it’s okay to feel anxious & scared. More often than not, your dreams & desires will scare you. Every important thing you want in life will require you to take a risk at some point or another because the most rewarding entities exist on the other side of fear. 


  • It’s hard to cope when you feel like you’re not meeting the goals & expectations you’ve set out for yourself. No one wants to feel inadequate. Sometimes we feel intimidated by the abilities of others, making us question our self-worth & affecting our self-confidence. 

By being more self-aware, I’m able to recognize my feelings as they occur. Over time, I’ve learned to identify triggers, & I do my best to manage the emotions that they bring forward. I accept my emotions for what they are & try to maintain composure while considering how my irrational behaviors could potentially affect those around me. One impulsive action may feel justified in the moment, but it can also turn into something that you deeply regret later on. 

It’s important to be kind to yourself & stay motivated, despite any setbacks. You have absolutely no control over the actions of others, but you have full control over yourself. I love this saying by Wayne Dyer:

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.

When it comes to dealing with the emotions of others, I choose to be as sensitive, compassionate & understanding as I can. If someone is angry or frustrated, I don’t take what they say or how they act towards me personally. If someone is sad or upset, I listen to everything they want to share & acknowledge how they feel & why they feel that way. 

Rather than passing judgment, I prefer to listen & do my best to fully understand their current dilemma. I empathize, show remorse, & ensure they know that I’ll always support their decisions & be there for them. It’s always been important for me to approach life with a level head. I’m not afraid to take the initiative when needed. I can identify what’s important & make informed decisions. I do my best to connect with everyone around me in a way that nurtures & empowers them.

When it comes to portraying emotional intelligence, be sure to show your support & validate the feelings of others. I only offer advice or help when asked. I do my best to show empathy & remorse, without overstepping boundaries. This helps build rapport, trust, & respect. Don’t define your world in black & white, because there’s grey in every story. Be who you are, but aspire to be better!

XO Denise

sunflower bouquet

Who Are You?

“Who are you?” is one of the quintessential questions that an interviewer will ask you during an interview. This question also makes me think of the hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland & the song My Shot from Hamilton. Unless you take the time to really think about who you are, it’s also one of the most difficult questions to answer. I personally don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that every single thing that has occurred in my life & every person who has come & gone, happened for a specific reason. All of the past occurrences & people who have been in & out of my life helped me to become the woman I am today. And for that, I will always be grateful.

My Family

My parents met at my cousin’s 1st Birthday Party. At that time, my Dad was still married to his 1st wife, & my Mom was engaged to someone else. My Dad ended up getting a divorce because his in-laws didn’t want them to have children. My Mom ultimately called off her engagement because she somehow knew in her heart that there was something better waiting. About two years later, they reconnected & started dating. My Mom broke up with my Dad because she thought that he was entertaining other women behind her back. They separated for a little over three months before they got back together & eventually got engaged.

In grade school, I had to interview a family member about their best friend as a class project. I chose to interview my Dad. While I didn’t appreciate the love-filled answers that he gave me at the time, that interview shows me how beautiful true love is. In short, my Dad’s best friend is my Mom. She’s his best friend because they talk about anything & everything without getting bored of each other. His best memories with her aren’t even huge, impactful moments, but simply being around her every day. They don’t even have to say anything. But with a quick look or making silly faces at each other, he knows that he has everything that he needs in her alone.

My parents’ love story teaches that life is unexpected. If you have tunnel vision trying to pursue one clear path, fate & the universe may conspire against your current circumstances to give you something better than you could have ever imagined. Even after what you think is the love of your life, love can & will find you again. If you choose to keep your heart open & take a leap of faith. Their love makes me believe in soulmates & emphasizes the importance of marrying your best friend.

My siblings are my closest friends. They’re also my complete opposites. lol My sister is three years older than me, & my brother is three years younger than me. Being a middle child & their sister has taught me so much about how to communicate & mediate my actions when dealing with individuals who act & think differently than I do. While I’m a newly awakened empath, I know in my heart that my Dad & both of my siblings are empaths too.

My brother is bipolar. While I’ve lived the majority of my life not affected by my own emotions or the emotions of others, my brother gave me an inside look into the mind of someone who bottles everything he feels inside. My brother takes on the emotions & problems of others like a sponge.

As a Cancer sun, he’s innately empathic, emotional, & sensitive. While he can be the most enthusiastic & positive person you’ll ever meet, he also holds a lot of darkness inside & secretly hates himself.

I distinctly remember one day while I was away from home in college, & we were catching up through text. He was asking me how I was & how school was going, which was pretty typical for us. After saying goodbye to each other for the night, no less than 5 minutes later, my sister called me crying. She tells me that my brother is in the hospital under a 5150 (California law code for the temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment of individuals who present a danger to themselves or others due to signs of mental illness). I am the last person my brother communicated with as if everything was fine before he had to hand over his phone & be admitted. After his hold for evaluation, he was officially diagnosed as bipolar.

My sister was bullied in grade school from the first grade through 8th grade. We went to a predominantly white, private, Catholic school. As one of the only brown girls in her class, boys in her class started to make fun of her on a daily basis. It got to the point that she was constantly depressed & at one point, even suicidal.

She’s also a Cancer sun, so she’s just as empathic, emotional, & sensitive as my brother. She prefers to bottle up all of her emotions up until she snaps, & it usually comes out as anger & frustration. Looking back, my sister was mean to me & bossed me around throughout her grade school years. But I completely understand why. It wasn’t until I moving away for college that we became closer. In the four years that I was living away from home, she would call me on the phone. She begged, cried, & offered to buy my train ticket to come home to visit.

I truly believe that my siblings made my empathic, spiritual awakening exponentially easier. In the times that I feel overwhelmed by my own emotions, their experiences struggling with mental health help me become even more determined to always transmute & channel my emotions into something positive. They help me embrace my new gifts with an open heart & mind, knowing that I already spend my entire life trying to be strong & stoic. Embracing my new empathic & intuitive abilities is possible because I always have them both to help me whenever I’d struggle.

My aunts, uncles, & cousins also play a huge role in who I am. Both of my parents are one of six children. They immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area from the Philippines. I grew up going to family parties every week. I created so many happy memories with my family playing games & going on vacations. As an adult, I still travel with my cousins on occasion. My family is fun, hilarious, & supportive of all of my entrepreneurial ventures. They were my first YouTube channel followers, my first blog readers, & my first Tarot card reading customers. I know in my heart that they’ll always be there to love & support me throughout my lifetime.

My Friends

While I keep my social circles very small, I have the best friends that I could ever ask for. Two of my best friends, I’ve known since Kindergarten; that’s 29 years of friendship. We are three points of a balanced & strong triangle. We’ve stood by each other & remained very close despite going to different high schools & colleges.

Brittany is an Aries sun. She is brilliant, driven, & outgoing. She consistently inspires me with her adventurous spirit, work ethic, & passion for the people & things she loves. She’s a true Fire Sign. Jessica is a Virgo sun. She is fiercely loyal, hard-working, & reliable. She encourages me to let loose & have fun. She’s constantly introducing me to new avenues of thinking & the greatest humans you’ll ever meet. She’s an Earth sign, with a Scorpio Moon, allowing her to embrace her emotional side too.

My best friend from college, Liz is also a Virgo sun. She’s incredibly grounded, level-headed, & practical. She’s always giving me advice whether it be for my career or my love life. She shares my love for delicious food & dessert. She reminds me of my worth & is always there to hype me up or surprise me when I’m feeling down. Even after twelve years of not living in the same town, she’s always there for me. We make the effort to fly across the country to see each other as often as financially possible.

My remaining handful of friends that I won’t get into specifics about are just as amazing, kind, & understanding. Even after days, weeks, or months without speaking to one another, we’re always able to come back together just as strong, as if no time has passed. I love all of my friends with all of my heart. It takes so much for me to open up to new people & make new friends, so the people that I choose to keep in my inner circle mean everything to me.

My Past Romantic Partners

My past romantic partners always act as a mirror into my soul & how I perceive who I am at a time in my life. The more tumultuous the relationship, the more I hated myself & needed outside validation. The more I change who I am to conform to who I think they want me to be, the more I see that I didn’t have my own identity without them. I changed my eating habits, my hobbies, & the way I dressed, did my makeup & hair to ensure I would always be “accepted” & “loved” by their standards instead of my own.

While I’ve retained some things that they brought into my life, I now choose to put myself first, only keeping what I truly love & want to continuously do going forward. I love to travel. Writing is my primary creative outlet. I love boxing, dancing, & hiking as my preferred workouts. My Nintendo Switch saved me from boredom during COVD-19 stay-at-home orders. I love homecooked meals, baking banana bread, & using Kraft Real Mayo on my sandwiches.

My past partners taught me to always see my own worth because no one else will ever be me. I choose who to be intimate with, because my body is sacred & not just anyone deserves to worship at my temple.

My Enemies & Haters

I know that I am not for everyone. There have been plenty of times in my life that others have gone out of their way to make their disdain towards me known. Instead of cowering in a corner, hiding who I am, or blocking out the world in an attempt to protect myself, I transmute their hate & unkindness & allow it to add fuel to my inner fire. Despite the opinions of others, I still deserve to have an abundant life. Hate will never deter me from accomplishing my goals or living a happy & successful life.

As the main character in the story of our own lives, we need to remember to always embrace every new chapter, every side character, & even our enemies to reach our full potential. So… who am I? I am a combination of every person in my life, every experience & life lesson shared with me.

I’m like my Dad because I’m creative, resourceful, & entrepreneurial, with hopes of being my own boss one day. I look like a younger version of my Mom. I also hope to be just as nurturing of a wife & mother as she is. I’m learning to be as caring & helpful as my siblings. I am just as amazing, fun, intelligent, kind, & supportive as my family & friends. I am everything & everyone in my life that I love. That’s who I am.

XO Denise

photo of rainbow colored painting on canvas

What’s Your Favorite Color?

Yesterday, March 28th, marked the beginning of Holi, a festival of colors & spring that signifies the victory of good over evil. I’ve always been a huge fan of color, coloring, & coloring books. When I was in kindergarten, I would often bring a stack of coloring books from home & crayons to school with me. During recess, I would lay out the coloring books on a table with crayons in the center for everyone to share. Without proactively inviting anyone to join me, kids from my class would come to take a seat & color with me all recess instead of playing. For my 22nd birthday, my friend gifted me a Hello Kitty coloring book with twist-up crayons that I loved! And when adult coloring books & colored pencils became popular as a young adult, I was ecstatic! My brother even gifted me an adult Harry Potter coloring book for Christmas last year. Even though I don’t color nearly as often as I did as a child, coloring has always been very therapeutic to me, so with that in mind, I recently decided to look into Color Therapy.


Color Therapy, also known as Chromotherapy, is the concept that mental & physical health can be improved & treated using color. Color & colored light can create subtle changes in a person’s mood & behavior. I’ve always considered the influence of color when designing my past websites as well as branding. I made my 1st website when I was 11. I can still see the simple HTML coding in my mind. It had “Neecie’s Mystic Universe” in bold multi-colored letters, a black background, & lime green arial font. lol

A few years ago, I attended an Exploratorium After Dark in San Francisco. There was an exhibit where you place your head in an orb that would cycle through the color spectrum. I remember awkwardly sitting with my head in the bubble imagining I must look like a crazy, nerdy astronaut to everyone passing by. But then the colored lights started & I forgot about everyone else judging me, & instead immersed myself in the experience & how I felt with each new color. It was an incredibly memorable experience. Too often, people choose to turn to alcohol, drugs, or even prescribed mood-enhancing medicine to lift their spirits. But since adding a pop of color to your life is much easier & quite-frankly healthier, I’m going to give you some DIY Color Therapy tips today!

The Seven Chakras

Color Therapy can be linked to your chakras. If you’re not familiar with the seven chakras, feel free to read my previous blog about them here. Depending on the energy you need to balance or unblock in terms of your energy, that’s the color you should be using or tuning into:

  • PURPLE for when you’re feeling misunderstood & disconnected from the Universe.
  • INDIGO for when you’re struggling to trust your intuition or feel unable to see the bigger picture.
  • BLUE for when you’re having trouble communicating & expressing yourself.
  • GREEN for when you’re having trouble giving or receiving love.
  • YELLOW for when you need a boost of confidence.
  • ORANGE for when you struggle with being social or following your passions.
  • RED for when you’re unsure of who you are, feeling unstable or stagnant.

Here are some ways to implement color & consider how color affects your every day life:

Disconnect from screens a few hours before bed or invest in blue light filtering glasses.

Over-exposure to blue light, which is emitted from smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, etc., can affect your circadian rhythm, making it more difficult to sleep at night.

Spend more time outdoors in the sunlight.

Natural sunlight & greenery is magical in my opinion. Even though I have sensitive skin & tend to sunburn easily, with a little more SPF added to my daily routine, I’ve been able to spend more & more time in the sun. Sunlight naturally recharges me, making me feel more confident, & green landscapes, trees, & colorful flowers fill me with love & joy.

Decorate your home & personal spaces using color.

Colors that you’re drawn to when decorating are a big clue into what you may feel that you’re lacking in your life. In the past, I was only drawn to black & purple. I know now that I wasn’t in touch with my spirituality, nor did I understand or embrace my place in the universe back then. I didn’t realize how out of alignment I had become. Despite being raised as Catholic, for a long time, I was rejecting my higher self & higher purpose in life. When I was decorating my new bedroom in Oakland, I used almost every color in a rainbow, so I’m very glad to say that I’m much more in alignment & fully embrace my spirituality now.

Key Takeaways

Growing up, I always felt very “unique”, but I also took being misunderstood in stride. With the lessons that I learned last year, I suddenly needed & wanted to incorporate more color into my life. I now surround myself with every color under the sun & proactively choose anything other than black, grey, or white on purpose.

What’s your favorite color? Mine has always been purple. But over the past year, through decorating my actual apartment, my house on Sims 4, & my house on Animal Crossing, I’ve also fallen in love with yellow & green. lol These colors signify my need for more self-confidence, self-love, & keeping my heart more open in general. As you continue to learn & grow as a person, keep in mind the colors that your eyes gravitate towards. It could be a huge clue & indicator of what you need more of in your life. Consider how you can slowly incorporate certain colors into your life to help you improve that area of your life, instead of relying on bad habits, drugs, or alcohol.

XO Denise


Learning to Love Myself

Growing up, my dad taught me that the key to finding the right person was in the way that I carry myself. He taught me to always use my brain, exude confidence, be honest, & be authentic. Because if you’re constantly wearing a mask & pretending to be someone you’re not, you’ll just end up attracting the wrong people, who don’t even know the real you. Through accepting who you are, being yourself, caring for yourself, & loving yourself every day, you’ll attract & keep yourself surrounded by the right people, who will truly love you & continue to love you just as much as you do. This is about Iearning to love myself.

My Darkest Secret

My darkest secret is my body dysmorphia. I have an unhealthy obsession with food & not wanting to get fat. Over time, the way I perceive my body became a clear mental health disorder. To put it simply, no matter how “healthy” I am according to my BMI, when I look at myself in the mirror, my body & what I consider to be my “flaws” always look exactly the same to me. While I may seem confident with my curves, the truth is that I hate my round face, arms, butt, stomach, & thighs.

When getting ready to go out into the world, I change my outfit several times, because of how my body looks to me when I’m wearing certain outfits. There’s nothing worse in my mind than picturing how perfect an outfit would be in my head for a certain occasion then having to change 10+ times because I hate the way my body looks in my 1st option & every single option that I choose afterward. Growing up I thought I was just messy… but in reality, my hate & frustration with the way I look causes me to scatter my clothes all over my room every day. That’s also why I became obsessed with shopping for the same styles of clothing in different colors & patterns, because they make me look “skinny” or highlight the parts of my body that I like better & are more comfortable showing off.

Learning to Accept My Flaws

While I know that I’m generally attractive, I still obsessively put myself under a microscope when it comes to how I look in the mirror & in photos. When I post a selfie, I take at least 10 different shots in various angles & lighting with different smiles. When posting something with my body, I suck in my stomach, arch my back, elongate my spine, & emphasize my jawline from the crown of my head for the optimum shot.

Last year, I finally learned to start loving myself more. With COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, I had little reason to do my hair & makeup every day. I no longer had to pick out the “perfect” outfit for work, date nights, or parties. There was no need to get my eye lashes or nails done. I couldn’t get my eyebrows threaded. I couldn’t get a facial or a massage. Forced to be my natural self every day, I love the way I look with my wild, curly hair, glasses, & a fresh, freckled-faced now.

The Positive Effects of 2019 & COVID-19

For the first time in a long time, I feel beautiful without having to try so hard. I could be me, & I didn’t have to wear a mask for the world anymore. Even though I’m ironically forced to wear a mask over my nose & mouth for the health & safety of the rest of the world, I finally feel more confident & happy in my own skin. Because the people who I love & matter to me the most still appreciate & love me too. With people telling me how much they love my curls & freckles daily, I can still be seen as beautiful & perfect without all the extra effort.

2019 taught me that I didn’t have to wear makeup, do my hair, dress up, & take selfies regularly to be loved. I work out regularly & eat better because I know that my body deserves to love & care. It’s nearly impossible to go out to eat every day, so I renewed my love of cooking at home. I couldn’t fly & collect more stamps on my passport, so I learned to appreciate road trips & explored up & down the West Coast instead. And with little to no social interaction outside my immediate social pods, I proactively choose to be more friendly & kind to every person I interact with each day.

Retreating into the Darkness

I’ll admit that I did struggle once the Bay Area started to reopen again. While people in other California counties were rushing to book their eyelash, nail, & waxing appointments again, I was honestly more excited to finally be able to re-book all of my cancelled travel plans for the year. Scrolling through social media ultimately triggered my insecurities & my obsession with staring at everything wrong with my body in the mirror & in my photos.

This was a very dark place, but it’s important to reevaluate what I need to be happy & feel comfortable in my body. I was already working out for at least 30 minutes every single day, drinking lots of water, & eating lots of fresh fruit & veggies. In the end, I decided that I needed to limit my time scrolling through social media, because social media algorithms force unrealistic standards of beauty in my face that trigger my body dysmorphia. I want to continue to embrace my natural beauty & love my body for all of things it allows me to do. I don’t need eyelash extensions, a full face of makeup, & perfectly manicured nails to feel beautiful anymore. Despite society’s unrealistic standards of beauty when it comes to the ideal body type, I know in my heart that my body is strong & perfect.

Lesson Learned

All that matters to me going forward is that I continue to love myself, take care of my body, & be authentically me. Despite what I still see in the mirror, I choose to love myself more than the hate I feel for my reflection. Others tell me that I have an innate ability to inspire others to love themselves just by being myself, so that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I hope that sharing how I learned to love myself has helped you as well. Because I want everyone to learn that no one in the world is more deserving of your love & affection than yourself.

XO Denise

white ceramic mug on table

Perfect Attendance

I’m a proud nerd, & I still love school. I cry when I’m forced to miss a day because I was sick. It was foreign to me how kids could fake being sick or dread going to school every day. I was proud of having perfect attendance, doing my homework, & completing my projects on time. Reflecting on my love of school recently made me see truancy in a new light.

If someone prefers to be absent, they obviously have their reasons. Maybe they have a bully, or maybe their parents shame them when they get bad grades. Maybe they actually want to like school, but they don’t have the resources to succeed. The choice to attend or not attend school is a simple decision for either side of the coin. Because you know when you love something or if you don’t. And that’s why I hate the proverb “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Absence Does Not Make the Heart Grow Fonder

I know what I like & dislike, which is why I knew at a young age that I love school. Similar to my love of school, after a first date, I know whether or not I get good vibes. After three months, I can see myself entering into a real relationship & falling in love. Absence & distance do not make the heart grow fonder. Absence & distance is more of a test. Because remaining faithful & loyal to your partner when you’re directly next to them or not is love.

I’ve had three long-distance relationships so far, & all three of them were terrible. That’s why I succumbed to the notion that long-distance relationships will never work out. If you’re currently in a long-distance relationship, hopefully reflecting on my past mistakes will help you navigate your current circumstances.

My 1st Long-Distance Relationship

My 1st long-distance relationship was with my boyfriend from college, who lived in Southern California. The majority of the year we’d be together, living on-campus. But little did I know that over the Holidays & Summer, he secretly wanted to break up with me. And if you’re wondering, he NEVER expressed this issue in the two years that we were together.

In the end, he broke up with me a week before I started my Junior year. He decided that he wanted to start dating his co-worker. Already hanging out with her all Summer, he wanted to be a “good” guy & end things before cheating on me. He even phrased it ridiculously too. “Let’s just be best friends, who no longer date.” It wasn’t until almost a month after we broke up that I learned about the other woman. The last time we spoke, I asked him why he started dating me with no intentions of marrying me. He finally admitted that it was because I was the prettiest girl on campus, & he wanted a girlfriend.

What I Learned

Take Your Time

Our relationship had no foundation. We only knew each other for about one week before we became “official” boyfriend & girlfriend. Unlike me, he wasn’t dating with the expectation of getting married one day. He chose me so that he could have the prettiest girl on campus as his first girlfriend. Even though we did discuss getting married during the 2nd year of our relationship, it was probably only because I was still a virgin, & I was adamant about not wanting to sleep with him, because I always believed that I’d wait until I was married to lose my virginity.

I also didn’t even want the possibility of accidentally getting pregnant while I was still in college. Over time, it became apparent that he didn’t want to change his life around to include me in it. He didn’t see himself moving to the Bay Area, & I honestly didn’t want him to be the father of my children. Even after breaking up with me to start dating the other girl, he called me a few days later saying, “If things don’t work out, I hope that we can get back together.” At that time, I still didn’t know that he was already dating someone new, but I listened to my intuition & told him “NO” outright.

Let Go

If someone doesn’t want to be with me, they can go. I’m not willing to let someone break up with me, just to come back, because the grass actually wasn’t greener on the other side. He lied to me throughout our relationship. He continued to lead me on with his lies even after he broke up with me, because he didn’t know his new girlfriend very well either. If things didn’t work out, he wanted to keep me as his safety net.

When we got back to school, I considered staying friends with him, because we lived in the same dorm building & worked together on campus. But instead, the Universe clearly placed his new girlfriend in front of my face, so that I knew the truth. In the end, I walked away & cut him off for my own peace of mind. He never genuinely apologized to me or made any effort to be vulnerable & prove that I could learn to trust him, & I’m fine with that. I gave myself closure. I forgave them both for sneaking around behind my back, & I walked away, because he was not my person.

My 2nd Long-Distance Relationship

My 2nd long-distance relationship was with my boyfriend that I dated on & off, during my Senior year of college. We were on opposing Dance Teams in college. It was a classic Romeo & Juliet story. My Dance team’s president hated that I was spending so much time with him & his friends. I didn’t allow them to control me. It became my obsession to win Romeo’s heart just to spite my Dance team’s efforts to stop me. While my intentions, in the beginning, weren’t the best, I still fell in love with him.

I was a month away from graduating when he asked me on a real date & officially called me his girlfriend. I still had one more class to take over the Summer, then I moved back home to the Bay Area. Over the Summer & during the Holidays, we did great. It was only once I was back in the Bay Area & he was back in school that the trouble started.

Even though I would come to visit him often, I could tell that our relationship dynamic was changing. In the moments that we’d previously feel close & connected, I could tell that he was starting to detach from me. After a terrible Valentine’s Day weekend together, I dreamt about a giant carton of milk chasing me. After evaluating my dream, it became clear to me that he was “milking” me. He broke up with me a week later. Then, I found out that he was already pursuing a girl that I suspected he was interested in within days.

What I Learned

Enter into a relationship when you’re truly ready. Don’t waste your time with months of on & off again turmoil. If someone is being wishy-washy when committing to you, it’s a sign that they’re not ready or possibly still healing. You want to enter a new relationship when both of your hearts are healed & ready to love again. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, he was still in love with his ex-girlfriend.

Communicate when you feel your relationship’s dynamic shift. There’s likely a reason that one or both of you are refusing to address. If you want your relationship to last, you need to have honest communication. Even though his ex didn’t want to repeat their past & get back together, the entire time that we were together his eyes were still wandering non-stop with the goal of finding someone who he considered to be an “upgrade” from his ex. Finding my replacement was more important to him than nurturing our relationship & appreciating me.

Don’t Ignore the Red Flags

He had absolutely zero regard to how his selfishness would hurt me in the end. He liked one of his friends who had just broken up with her boyfriend, & he also started to nostalgically consider “what if” he decided to date the girl on his dance team that he was interested in before choosing to date me. I was NEVER a factor in his decision-making. He was too wrapped up in his ego & finding a new “hot” girl to make everyone, including his ex-girlfriend jealous. Even though he kept telling me that he “loved” me, from his actions alone, I knew he was lying.

If your boyfriend is emotionally cheating on you with other people & already looking for your replacement, he is not invested in you or your relationship. He also definitely does not love you no matter what words are coming out of his mouth. You are worthy of a partner who is committed & loyal to only you.

Don’t Settle

Do not settle for mistreatment just because you don’t want to be alone. Have the courage to love yourself more than anyone else & choose to be alone over someone who is clearly being unfaithful to you & treating you like an option. I ultimately forgave him for hurting me, took some time to heal my heart, & moved on. While we did remain friends for a few years, we don’t talk anymore. I can honestly say that I have closure. I learned everything that I needed to from him, & I have no intentions of going back ever again.

My 3rd Long-Distance Relationship

My 3rd long-distance relationship was only for 10 months with a sniper in the United States Marine Corps. I first met him at a party when I was still with my 2nd long-distance boyfriend. We didn’t talk much at all that night. I made it abundantly clear to him that I was in a happy relationship & only have eyes for my boyfriend. After my previous boyfriend & I broke up, I took four months to heal my heart. I then found out through the grapevine that he had a huge crush on me.

Since we barely interacted at the party, he didn’t have enough confidence to try & talk to me again. So on a whim, I decided to message him late one night on Facebook. In Japan at the time, I asked what time it was over there. Chatting for months before meeting again in person, I assumed a long-distance relationship would work out this time. But I was WRONG!

When home long enough for us to go on dates, trips, or staycations, our online chemistry was all we had. It hadn’t occurred to me that it’s easy to be witty online, especially with time to craft the perfect reply. While I figured we’d at least have some chemistry, the excitement of finally spending time together in person turned bleak. The tiny spark we had fizzled out quickly. The more I got to know him, the more I knew that I needed to break up with him.

What I Learned

It’s easy for anyone to be charming & witty online, but nothing compares to in-person chemistry. Talking to someone for a few days, weeks, or even months online actually means NOTHING. You still need to spend quality time with someone in-person to know who they are, how they act, & how they carry themselves on a daily basis. If you feel like punching yourself in the face or need to be drunk or high to tolerate them, because you NEVER have anything to talk about, take it as a huge red flag & end it. There was no way that I could settle with our relationship. It got to a point that even thinking about having to be intimate with him repulsed me, & it felt like ants were crawling all over my body when he tried to touch me.

When I love someone, I enjoy & want all forms of intimacy. I want deep conversations with a man who challenges me to be better & do better throughout my lifetime, throughout our marriage, & as we grow old together. I’m in love when I can’t keep my hands off of them, & I feel irresistible to them too.

I was overly ecstatic whenever he’d get deployed to the other side of the world. His sense of humor was confusing, & I hated not being able to genuinely laugh anymore. He was smothering & obsessed with me. I was so much happier when he was gone, & I was alone. It was suffocating when he’d ask to spend more quality time together. In the end, since I wasn’t interested in being intimate with him anymore, I wasn’t surprised when he went elsewhere to get it. In fact, I was actually relieved that I finally had a reason to end it, because I didn’t want to dump him while he was still deployed. I forgave him for the choices he made that lead to our break up, & I forgave myself for not being honest with him or myself to end it before it turned into a huge mess.

My Advice

To anyone already in or currently considering getting into a long-distance relationship with someone, here’s my final advice:

1. Know who they truly are in-person, so you know that you can actually go the distance together.

You can’t deny whether or not chemistry exists in a relationship. After you’ve spent enough time together, the spark between you either fizzles out, or it ignites into an uncontrollable, passionate dynamic relationship. Trust your intuition – it’s clear when you like someone or you don’t. Don’t bother wasting your time staying with someone that you don’t even like. People can choose to change their toxic behaviors & bad habits, but who someone is at their core, including their personality, hobbies, etc. will not change no matter how much you want them to.

2. Discuss how & when the distance between you will no longer affect your relationship.

You cannot be separated from someone you love forever. If you’re actually happier when you’re not together, that’s a huge clue that the relationship is already dead in the water. Two people who truly love each other will decide how to change their lives around so that they can be together & stay together for good. One or both of you must decide how to compromise, move in together, & create a life that works for both of you.

3. Choose to always love, be faithful, be loyal, & be committed to your partner whether there is distance between you or not.

Your partner’s absence should not be an excuse to do whatever you want. If your relationship is truly meant to go the distance, an ex or another person sliding into your DMs or flirting with you at a social event will not affect your connection. As I said before, distance is a test. If you value your relationship, you wouldn’t let any outside factors affect it.

Key Takeaways

In a lasting relationship, your partner will ask you to text them when you get home. When you forget, they call you to make sure that you’re home & safe. When traveling, you ensure that they know where you are & that you’re safe. You want to FaceTime or Snapchat them when it’s been too many days apart.

If you love your partner, reject new & old love interests out of respect. Be willing to warn friends to go easy on their compliments because you don’t want anything to be accidentally misconstrued. If you love & value your relationship, you won’t want anything to mess it up. Especially not by a friend from college who likes to call you “Boo” under every selfie to hype you up.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you need to create distance between you & your partner to make them love you. Two truly committed individuals will reject anyone & anything that tries to interfere with their connection. They don’t need excuses, loopholes, or exceptions. Long-distance or not, someone who loves you will always be there to love you the way you deserve. When the right person comes along, you “show up” for them, bringing a new meaning to perfect attendance.

XO Denise

Open Letter to the Other Woman

Love triangles are overly prominent on TV shows & movies. Honestly, no one wins when a relationship begins or ends with a love triangle. The lasting relationships form when two healed & self-sufficient individuals come together as equals, ready to ensure they can & will go the distance. This is an open letter to the other woman.

Choosing or accepting being in a love triangle is not better than being alone. Finding my inner strength to walk away ultimately brought me peace & happiness every single time. I apologized to my past loves a few weeks ago, just in time for Valentine’s Day. In my journey of shadow work & healing, remorsefully apologizing to the other women is the best next step.

Number 1: I’m sorry for hindering the growth of your connection.

If it’s any consolation, the last time we were supposed to see each other, he stood me up. I stood there alone outside of his apartment complex confused & disappointed about what had happened. I even tried calling him while I was outside, because I knew how much he still loved me. He called me a couple of weeks after I moved too. I was temporarily back at home that weekend, but I didn’t want to face him since I already had a new boyfriend. He was still trying to pretend that he wasn’t deeply hurting.

I know that he ran to you to make me jealous, but I don’t know if you even knew about me. I’m sorry that I affected your connection. I never intended to hurt him. It was a Summer fling because I never planned to keep a boyfriend back home. I was his first love. If his heartbreak was even a fraction of my worst heartbreak, I’m glad that he had you to give him hope again.

He wrote me a letter a few months after you two broke up. I never responded, because I didn’t want to give him false hope. If you did know about me, thank you for carefully handling his broken heart. I just hope that you were able to find true love with someone better for you in the end.

Number 2: I’m sorry for not letting him go gracefully, lurking your Facebook, & talking behind your back.

You gave him what I didn’t want to give him in the two years that we were together. I didn’t want to give him my body in that way. But I felt like a prude for wanting to stay a virgin until I was ready. As a blond lifeguard, you represented everything I’ve been insecure about my entire life.

In the end, I liked that you defended him when I messaged you on MySpace. I tried to befriend you & joke about his flaws. But you quickly called me out on my BS, which I respected. I don’t know if you actually loved him or if you did only choose him because he was your quickest option to get a Green Card. Regardless, I didn’t know you well enough to judge you, & it was completely unfair of me to meddle in your connection.

In the wake of our breakup, he told his roommate about what he did. It was comforting after the mess he made. But in all honestly, with all of the secrets & lies, we both lost in the end. You got married & divorced. Since it wasn’t meant to last, I hope you found a new lasting love in the end with someone else.

Number 3: I’m sorry for not respecting you just because you were a stranger.

I didn’t even know that you existed until after we danced together at a party. I went home & checked out his Facebook. While I should have walked away from him right then & there, I’m sorry for choosing to be the other woman. If I could go back in time, I would have kept my distance & stopped myself from pursuing anything further. I’m sorry for the hurt I caused because I didn’t know if you were still together, broken up, or on a break. I truly don’t blame you for creating a fake Facebook account to lurk me. If I were in your shoes, I would have been deeply hurt & upset too.

You were beautiful. If you two were high school sweethearts, I completely understand why he chose you. We were never in a real relationship. He could barely hold a conversation with me, which made our breakup a lot easier. I also didn’t realize how “comfortable” his lifestyle was until after we broke up, just in case you were worried I was a gold digger. I hope you found true love with someone who respected & valued you.

Number 4: I’m sorry for sneaking behind your back, while you were such a good friend.

I only befriended you at first to keep you close. You had a boyfriend back home, but you were still really good friends with him. If the moment presented itself, you would have loved to breakup with your hometown boyfriend to be with him instead.

When I finally let go, I felt so bad about the on & off again drama he put you through. We were actually still really good friends for a while afterward. You were a genuine & good-hearted person. You even invited me into your home, cooked for me, & let me vent to you about my own relationship issues. I hope you found someone to give you all of their love. Because we both knew he was still too heartbroken from his first love to come around to either of us.

Number 5: I’m sorry that my jealousy & insecurity caused me to blame you for the issues in our relationship.

You were so genuinely beautiful inside & out. I understood why he fell in love with you & why it was so hard for him to get over you after your breakup. There was a time that we finally became cordial with one another. I’ve already admitted to you that I honestly never disliked you. I was so jealous of your close friendship & insecure that I may never live up to the bar you set. It was kind of you to offer to drive me from the Bay Area to go visit him while he was still in school after I graduated. I was just too stubborn at the time to accept or appreciate it. In the end, he just didn’t want forever with me, & I needed to accept that & let go of him gracefully.

We haven’t caught up in years, & I unfollowed you on Social Media during my recent purge. Nothing personal, just for my own peace of mind. You got a new job in LA. I hope you found true love with someone better for you, have a very successful career, & create an amazing life for yourself.

Number 6: I’m so sorry for the mean Facebook message I sent you after he broke my heart. You didn’t deserve that. 

We never got to form a deep friendship, but since you were on the same dance crew as him, we had so many mutual friends. I considered you to be like family to me. I had my suspicions that he liked you, & our mutual friends even confirmed it after we broke up. Regardless, it still felt like a knife to my heart when I realized that he was already pursuing you days after our breakup. I appreciate & respect that you kept your relationship private & never made a huge public display out of it.

Even after you two broke up, you always showed me genuine kindness, which I still admire to this day. You are such an amazing human & an incredibly talented dancer. I hope you found your own true love & happiness with someone better. I learned so much from you.

Number 7: I’m sorry for judging you when I honestly didn’t even want him anymore.

I never met you. It was unfair of me to show your pictures to my friends so that we could judge you based on nothing. I discovered you on Instagram after we had been broken up for a few years. He wanted to give me the world, so I wanted to see who picked up the shattered pieces of his heart. He hoped to marry me & start a family because his own family was so broken.

Thank you for loving him in all the ways I could never grow to be able to. You gave him hope again & the family that he always dreamed about.

Number 8: I’m sorry for my jealousy. We are so similar & our resemblance to one another is uncanny.

There was a time where I considered you to be my evil twin. We looked so similar that it was weird not to think about it in that way. After your car accident, I don’t know if you even knew that he took you to the car dealership that my brother worked at. And when my brother saw you, he literally thought the same thing. You could have been our sister.

Did you know that I helped & supported him while he was unemployed? I was so ecstatic for him when he finally landed a new job. Somehow during his month of onboarding, you two started dating, & I was heartbroken & left out in the cold.

You seemed so smart & ambitious. I honestly thought you could do so much better. When he changed his Facebook relationship status with no warning or consideration of my feelings, I was naturally livid. He spent time with my family, & we all watched a movie together just a couple of weeks prior to when he became official with you.

The bottom line is that someone who loved & respected me wouldn’t have done what he did. I know that you guys broke up, & you’re already dating someone new. The breakup seemed to be pretty amicable, so thank you for teaching me about being more gracious when walking away from someone, who clearly doesn’t love me anymore.

Number 9: I’m sorry I let him juggle us both.

We knew each other from college. It was a very short & brief encounter, but enough that we were friends on Facebook. He had brunch with you in Sacramento the week before he broke both of our hearts. From what I could tell, you two weren’t exclusive either, & you were still on & off again with your ex-boyfriend.

I’m still surprised that you unfriended & blocked me on Facebook. But I guess that means that you knew about us too. He picked Number 8 in the end. I hope you find love & happiness with someone better because neither one of us deserved poor treatment from him.

Number 10: I’m sorry for not walking away when I knew he wasn’t over you.

You were right. He did still hold a torch in his heart for you. Those public Venmo payments were a warning sign for me to back off, but I ignored my instincts & let him come & go as he pleased.

You must have been to see him go back to me again & again. If it’s any consolation, we were never exclusive. I still can’t believe you created that fake online dating profile to impersonate me & put me under a negative spotlight. You stole my actual pictures & mentioned somewhat accurate details from my life, which could have done long-term damage to my career. And just FYI – I’m not Mexican, I’m Filipino.

When you changed your Facebook profile picture to Harley Quinn, I needed to approach you with compassion & kindness. That’s why I wrote that blog post to you all those years ago. I enjoy the MTV show Catfish, but I never expect those situations in real life. From what I can tell, you found your happiness with someone else, which I’m so happy about. You deserve to be genuinely loved.

Number 11: I’m sorry for judging you. I never met you, didn’t know you personally, & didn’t know any of the messy details of your life.

While you seemed to have tried your best to keep things a secret, my intuition about you & him was right. I still don’t understand how you could cheat on your fiancé then proceed to still marry him & have his baby. You were older, had a successful career, & so much going for you.

Were you scared of this next chapter? Why did you also choose someone so much younger than you to cheat with? Maybe to rationalize that it could never turn into something more so you could live with your conscience?

Whatever your reasons, thank you for teaching me that no matter how perfect someone’s life may look on the outside, we all have our own issues, secrets, & lessons to learn. If you came clean to your husband, I hope your marriage lasts & you create a loving home environment for your child.

Number 12: I’m sorry for letting my jealousy get the better of me when he chose you over me.

We were never actually exclusive. I was just fooling myself. You were so successful & well off. You could have chosen anyone, & from what I heard, your close friend was in love with you too. It just took you getting into a relationship with someone else to wake them up. I couldn’t understand how or why you chose him when you had an entire ocean between you, but I know now that it was never my decision to make.

I’m sorry for creating that fake Instagram account to message you & let him think that Number 10 sent it. I’m glad that you were able to forgive him. It hurt a lot to see you visiting him. But luckily, I finally already let go when he moved from the Bay Area to live with you. He confessed that you were very Conservative & fought a lot after moving in together, which is why you ended up breaking up in the end. I’m so sorry for meddling in your connection, just because I wished he chose me instead. I hope you found someone better for you in the end.

Number 13: I’m sorry for holding you responsible for breaking the love of my life’s heart & blaming you for him not being ready to give his heart to me.

We never met, & I probably will never meet you. I was excited when I met him at the Labor Day camping trip. It was shocking to see you tagged together on Instagram. I did the math & realized how much younger he was than me. He’s so young to have already been married once. I was very skeptical of his intentions, so I didn’t want to date him at first. In the end, I spent our entire relationship trying not to fall in love with him, sabotaging our connection with my own insecurities.

But no matter how much distance & space I tried to keep between us, I just couldn’t stay away from him. He told me about you on our 1st date, which I totally respected. He only mentioned you one other time during a road trip, which I took as a very good sign. But I always knew that he was still healing from your divorce. After 6 years together, how could he not be?

You actually remind me of myself when I was younger. I see why he fell hard for you & why he expects & hopes to be with you forever. You seem to have made a very happy & loving family dynamic for yourself. Thank you for giving me hope that even after my worst possible breakup, it’s still possible to find love again.

Number 14: I’m sorry for not choosing to walk away when you were visiting for New Years.

We broke up in early December & got back together only a few days after. I don’t know if your New Years’ plans were decided while we were dating but not exclusive. All I focused on was that he was upfront & honest with me about you. I trusted him since I was going to be in Las Vegas for Lady Gaga’s Enigma residency while you were in town.

When you were suddenly no longer friends, you didn’t know about me. I also know that he tried to reconnect with you while I was on vacation in Hawaii. I’ve already personally apologized to you once, but I’ll gladly do it again. I’m sorry for the hurt & pain I cause. You didn’t deserve that. I need to be better about setting my boundaries & walking away. Thank you again for your grace & kindness. I wish only the best for you & your daughter.

Number 15: I’m sorry for drunk messaging you on Instagram while I was crying & heartbroken.

I am sorry for drunk messaging you, especially during such a monumental moment in history that we all as a nation were celebrating. I’m sorry for letting my emotions get the best of me. It was not my place to message you, & if I could go back in time to stop myself, I would. I should have continued to address the situation with him directly & leave you out of it.

Did you know that he asked my permission the night before the boat event? I knew you were there since you put him in your IG story. I gave him my permission because I trusted him. It sounded like fun & an exciting opportunity. I wanted him to enjoy it, even if there wasn’t enough space on the boat for me to join him. He promised to be home by the afternoon for our date night that he planned for us earlier that week. He asked me to block off Sunday for quality time with him, but he stood me up instead. Imagine me home alone, hair & makeup done, wearing a cute, new outfit, clutching my brand new frolf disc set, & crying because he didn’t come back.

That’s why I lurked your IG stories. I wanted you to see that I existed, & I knew about you. While I was concerned, we reconciled. We went on two amazing trips together in the weeks & months after the boat incident, so my fears quickly subsided.

I didn’t consider you a threat to our relationship until you posted those IG stories on his balcony & on his couch. The last straw was the public Venmo he sent you for gas. My heart & world shattered that day.

Instead of our typical cozy date night, you are the new me. You watch the sky change colors as the sun sets over my apartment building, only a block away. He encouraged & helped me to move in only four months earlier. But you are the one now laughing & smiling next to him on the couch that I sat on nearly every weekend for 13 months.

My emotions were uncontrollable that night. My tears were fueled by memories in that apartment. Cooking, making sandwiches, playing MarioKart & Animal Crossing, & him laying his head on my chest as we watched the projector with my fingers in his curls.

In all the times that I’ve messaged someone, woman to woman, to inform them of the situation, you were the only one to dismiss me, insult me, & be unnecessarily cruel & malicious. Thank you for the hard slap in my face to never make the same mistake again.

Did you know that he was still texting me? The night before his birthday, he told me that his friend was coming to town. I truly thought he was taking alone time & space to focus on school, because he was graduating. If he wanted to have fun with his friend, eating Raising Cane’s chicken for his birthday weekend, it was fine by me. Besides, I was already cutting back on fast food, & I didn’t want to disrupt my new Peloton workout schedule. If I had known the week prior that he wanted to break up with me, I wouldn’t have given him a birthday present. I would have walked away gracefully with my head still held high, no turning back, & no remorse.

It was shocking when you messaged me in December. After blocking you, I only unblocked you to apologize. But since you blocked me back, it was too late to say sorry & take back my actions. Why unblock me to message me, warn me to stay away, & tell me to move on, then immediately block me again?

I look at Instagram content for inspiration, & I use the explore tab to deep dive from account to account. I do not doubt that I watched a friend of yours’ IG stories, but how would I know that you were mutual friends, since you blocked me? How would viewing their IG story for inspiration affect your relationship in any way? I do not have the time or energy to look up people who have blocked me, put my nose in business where I’m clearly not wanted, see who follows who, & consider whether or not I should be viewing a stranger’s IG story.

Even though a full month had already passed, I’ll admit that your DM triggered me. I’m still healing my heart. You forced the pain of him leaving me to date you to come rushing back. It added salt to my wounds, realizing that he obviously let you read the heartfelt emails I sent him because you quoted my words verbatim. Was that your intention?

Even though I jumped into a new relationship with a liar who wasn’t looking for a serious relationship, I forgive you both for hurting me. As much as I still love him & don’t want to walk away, I love myself too much to feed into the immature drama. I refuse to allow anyone to treat me as if I’m easily disposable. I let go to allow your relationship to grow without my interference. After you messaged me, I blocked you & slowly blocked anyone else that I knew from his social circles who may try to hurt me for my own peace of mind.

I want you to be happy. In my email, I promised to never bother either of you again, & I’ve kept that promise for several months now. I loved him too much to settle with a place in his life as just a friend. Please promise to take care of his heart. Support him in all of his endeavors, & never let him doubt himself. He’s an amazing man, & I know in my heart that he’s going to do great things in his lifetime.

Since you read my emails, you know that I left the ball in his court. After drunk messaging you, he only reached out to tell me that he was blocking me. Thank you again for showing me who I don’t want to be. You forced me to look at myself in the mirror & gave me the strength & courage to finally change my life & who I am for the better.

Number 16: I’m sorry for using him as a band-aid to heal my broken heart.

I didn’t even know you existed until he changed his profile picture to the two of you. After reconnecting on Instagram, I told him about my breakup & that I was still healing from my ex. But a few weeks later, he insisted on visiting me for his birthday. In retrospect, I should have stopped him.

Don’t worry – his kissing is terrible. I’m not in contact with him all anymore. I ended up crying alone in my bathroom that weekend. Because I still love & miss my ex. He knows where my head & heart are at. I put an end to it, & blocked him on everything after that weekend. I’m happy that you two look really happy together.

Three is NOT company! If you rationalize your lies, manipulation, sneaking around, & cheating emotionally or otherwise, it’s time to walk away. You’re honestly doing yourself a disservice when you put yourself into a love triangle. If you have strong, healthy boundaries, you won’t let someone else put you into a third-party situation, nor should you put yourself into one. Don’t let someone you know get hurt by staying in an unhealthy third-party situation either. Don’t settle for anything less than you deserve, just because you’d rather be a third wheel than alone.

XO Denise

neon signage

Breaking Free from Trauma Bonds

While it’s becoming the norm in society to hide our inner demons, everyone has trauma at varying degrees. It’s in your refusal to heal the trauma that forces you to repeat your toxic cycles. You must be willing to learn from your past, do your inner shadow work, & heal from your suffering. It took me a long time to heal from my trauma of my mom & sister “abandoning” me & giving their attention & love to my brother. I have history of attracting emotionally unavailable men & being a bully to their new love interests to ruin the connection & take back the love that was once mine. A trauma bond is created through intense emotional ups & downs. It causes overexposure of hormones in a victim’s brain similar to addiction, bonding them to their abuser. Today, let’s reflect on my past trauma bonds & share some advice to help set you free.

Trauma Bonds

Trauma bonds can be with anyone in your life. It could be through emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or even threats of abandonment. It involves feeling emotionally attached & unable to walk away from individuals who can hinder your livelihood. This includes your ability to find a place to live or support yourself, & preventing you from seeing children, family, or pets. In the past, I let men abandon me. They come back into my life promising to stay, not cheat on me, & give me the love & attention that I deserve. It’s through repeated cycles of abuse & devaluation then love bombing with positive reinforcement that creates this type of emotional attachment.

Over time, victims grow to associate love with abuse. In the past, I looked for validation to prove that I was worthy & deserving of love. In my mind, if I can make an emotionally unavailable man commit & fall in love with me then I can finally be happy. The trauma from abuse creates powerful feelings that you may struggle to make sense of throughout your lifetime. Because the cycle of abuse follows a period of compassion, kindness, intimacy, & adoration. While it’s natural to develop a bond with someone who treats you with care & kindness, be aware that abusive relationships can begin with an endless shower of affection. Once you’re already in a commitment & devote yourself to this person, they show their true colors. The key indicator of a trauma bond is that no matter how long you are together & try to work through your issues, abuse still exists within your relationship. Even if your loved one no longer hits you or cheats, they alter their abusive tactics over time. Abusers are often clever. They switch to more effective & less obvious forms of abuse, such as manipulation, guilt-tripping, or putting you down.

My Trauma Bonds

My exes ghost me for days, weeks, or months. They vaguely break up with me so that they can sleep with whomever they want without feeling guilty. Because no matter how terribly they treat me, I’d still be there. I’d wait for them with my arms wide open & my heart on a silver platter. Deep down, you know if you’re suffering from mental abuse & manipulation. Are you getting empty apologies without a change of behavior? Don’t fall for the cycle of abuse & intimacy, then fool yourself into thinking that this is what love feels like. Instead of recognizing the red flags, victims expect unhealthy relationship behaviors. Imagine thinking “my partner never cheats, hits me, verbally puts me down, or threatens to break up with me, so they don’t love me.”

Unconditional love involves loving & accepting a person for being exactly who they are & the choices that they make. But that does not involve tolerating abuse, disrespect, or neglect. Someone who truly loves you does not allow anyone to hurt you. And they especially wouldn’t proactively choose to hurt you themselves. Learn to recognize when someone you love is abusive. Then, decide to walk away for good for your own mental health & safety.

The Cycle of Trauma

It’s in the endless cycles of apologies, gifts, & loving promises that confuse victims in hopes that their partner makes a permanent change of behavior until it starts all over again. Hormones play a huge role in trauma bonding too. Gifts, apologies, & physical intimacy produce adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, & oxytocin. These feel-good hormones create a false sense of excitement, love, passion, & pleasure. This causes you to want to keep making your abuser happy so that you continue to get that rush of dopamine, oxytocin, etc. because you’ve become so accustomed & addicted to it. 

It’s as if this individual controls you to the point where you don’t know how to resist or break free anymore. And if you do manage to leave, you may feel incomplete or lost without them. Victims often choose to go back, because this abusive cycle is the only type of love they’ve ever known. It feels comfortable & familiar, so despite their better judgment, they don’t know how to live without it.

Other signs of trauma bonds include:

  • Being unhappy & not liking your partner anymore, but still staying, because you’re unable to end things.
  • When you try to leave or consider leaving, you feel physically & emotionally sick.
  • When expressing that you want to leave, your abuser cries & promises to change without actually changing.
  • You only remember the “good” days, & use them as proof that they do truly care about you, blocking out the rest.
  • Excuses are made to defend their abusive behaviors when others express concern for your well-being.
  • You continue to trust them & hope to change them with no progress.
  • You willingly protect them by keeping their abusive behavior toward you or others a secret.

If you or someone you know is a victim of trauma bonding, here’s how to help & break free:

Keep a journal

If you need evidence of the cycle of abuse, write down things that happen each day to help you identify patterns & notice abusive behavior that may have not seemed abusive at the moment.

When you’ve confirmed that abuse did occur, note what happened & whether your partner said anything afterward to excuse their behavior.

Consider the relationship from a different perspective

If someone else you know & love were in your shoes, what advice would you give them? Would you tell them to leave that relationship? If so, you have trauma bonds with your partner.

Talk to loved ones that you trust

While it’s not easy to open up about abuse & you may have gotten angry or brushed off friends & family when they expressed concern in the past, your loved ones can offer a unique perspective. Listen & make an effort to consider the accuracy of an outside perspective.

Avoid self-blame

Regardless of the past, the abuse was NEVER your fault. Despite what you may or may not have done, how deeply you fear loneliness or a life without them, or how many times you’ve gone back to them, you do deserve better.

Cut off contact completely
  • Once you decide to leave, stop repeating the toxic cycle of abuse by stopping all communication.
  • If you co-parent or have shared pets, establish a plan to maintain only necessary contact.
  • Create physical distance by finding a new safe place to stay, if you live together.
  • Block them on social media, & consider changing your phone number, email address, etc., if necessary.

Key Takeaways

If they continue to insist that they’ll change, by going to therapy or doing anything you need, as long as you just come back, remind yourself of how many times they’ve already promised to change without actually changing. When you’ve repeated a toxic cycle three or more times, don’t fool yourself into thinking, the “umpteenth” time is the charm.

If you have no resources, call a Domestic Violence Hotline, especially if your relationship is violent. If you’re not in the United States, feel free to google a local hotline that you can reach out to for help.

I personally hate the saying “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.” The truth of the matter is that if someone can’t handle you at your worst, it’s because they have strong, healthy boundaries. The bottom line is you need to love yourself more than anyone else because trauma bonds through abuse & manipulation are not unconditional love. Don’t let someone discard you as if you & your feelings don’t matter – stand up & protect yourself, even when it feels impossible & you relapse. I will never repeat my toxic cycles with emotionally unavailable men again. An emotionally unavailable man is actually just a boy who refuses to take accountability for his actions, grow up, & keep his promises to someone that he cares about. I need & want a man who will give me the unconditional love that I deserve, without all the drama. Learn from your past makes, recognize your trauma bonds, & move on for your own mental health & safety.

XO Denise



Dr. Carmen Bryant