One topic that has been requested a lot lately are my more open and personal posts, ones that sum up my thoughts or feelings on life at the moment. I had planned on doing monthly reviews where I’d talk a bit more about my life, and while I still have those in mind, I’ve also known when I need to step back and reflect more within myself before sharing. But now as we begin a new year, I can’t help but want to share a bit more truth with you.
“2019 was the worst year of my life. And yet, 2019 was the best year of my life.” I’ll never forget writing those lines in my journal one night, and then taking a step back to realize it wasn’t completely true. I crossed out “worst” and changed it to “roughest”, and I crossed out “best” and changed it to “most transformative.”
We all hear the same phrase every January 1: “New year, new me!” Honestly for years I would roll my eyes at that statement. As human beings, we change and evolve throughout the year. Things happen to us that cause us to have to redefine what we thought we already knew. It shakes you up. You’re already a new person in that moment as you find your way through this new path that the universe has created for you.
When I think back to the person I was at the beginning of last year, I am horrified. “New year, new me.” Well I didn’t like that version of me. I am filled with the most indescribable cringe when I look back at that time when my life completely changed, and then I do what I do best – I blame myself and punish myself. I have this tendency to continually blame and punish myself over everything, and forgiving myself is not something I am likely to do. Even now, despite years and years of therapy, that is one act I find extremely hard to do.
I can sometimes be an impulsive person, but for the most part I can be extremely indecisive and take too much time dwelling on thoughts or topics. If I am to make a decision on anything, I want it to be made intentionally. But with my mental health challenges, it makes decision making extremely frustrating on a level that sometimes feels like a black hole. “What if” fills my head with a million different scenarios, and each day I will pick a different scenario and dwell on it hard. Then suddenly I am overwhelmed and all I want to do is retreat. But I live a fairly public life – retreating is pretty much a kiss of death for my job.
This is where feeling lost began to creep in even deeper. Social media makes everything look pretty and perfect, am I right? No one likes to post negative images about their life or really post the complete truth. My page is supposed to be a source of inspiration – a bright vision or Pinterest board for style and travel – not a page of darkness. So I kept posting images of me frolicking around Napa or Canada in pretty dresses as if life was normal, deflecting from my personal life and just becoming a nameless, faceless figure for Instagram. But life wasn’t normal, and the more I posted, the more I felt like a fake. A liar. A fraud. A joke.
On top of those anxieties, I began to receive hateful messages on a daily basis. Some messages were so hateful and damaging that I contemplated quitting my website and social media a few times and going into hiding. I no longer had protection from these haters, and I was losing a ton of followers at a crazy rate from those who realized they were no longer going to get an extra look at my ex on my page anymore. I then suddenly felt like I was only good enough because of who I had been married to, so the “lost” sensation really began to eat at me. Who was I? Was I even worthy anymore? Was I ever really worthy? What did I truly have to offer that was so darn special? I was a divorced former pageant queen surrounded by people much better than her and I was doing a job that everyone else seemed to be much better at.
Navigating this new path alone at times was also detrimental. A lot of people I had considered close friends now turned their backs on me (which showed their true colors to me in the end), my readers were disappointed with me, no one in my family lived anywhere near me, and I even worried my own business teams were no longer happy with me. I was just an empty girl sitting alone in her bedroom with her two cats in a city that drove her mad. I used to feel strong. I was telling myself I was strong earlier in the year. Now suddenly that strength was gone. I was lost. And all I could do was blame myself and then quickly punish myself mentally. You deserve this, fraud.
Professionally during all this, my blog posts pretty much came to a complete halt. I wanted to keep posting about lots of topics, and I’d initially get excited about them, but I felt my magic touch was gone. Plus, I wasn’t ready to share much about my personal life or my thoughts. I am, after all, an Anglophile who is slightly obsessed with the royal family so I thought about adopting their motto of “never complain, never explain.” I stayed quiet as if nothing was wrong. With each passing month, I felt I was continually letting everyone down. Around the height of my lost sense of self, that was the time I escaped to Asia on my long awaited trip.
Travel enriches my soul. It makes me take a step back and truly appreciate the world we live in. It makes me feel like all the sadness and drama in my personal life truly means nothing in the grand scheme of things because we are each just tiny pieces in this big, big world full of breathtaking nature, hundreds of cultures, and numerous diverse languages. I notice whenever I am feeling down or overwhelmed, my first thoughts are immediately about travel. Planning for my first trip across the Pacific was a way to escape physically and mentally. That isn’t to say that my lost feeling didn’t follow me to Asia. There were a few mornings I took walks by myself at sunrise by the water in Hong Kong. In Cambodia, I watched the sun come up over the horizon as I sat alone by the pool. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was doing my own form of meditation. I was doing exactly what I had been encouraged to do – I was taking time for myself. And that’s what I needed to start doing more of. And I needed to start doing things for myself.
When I got back to Los Angeles, I moved out of my home of 4.5 years and into my own apartment for the first time ever. My old home began to feel toxic and negative. What used to be a bright, cheery house had now felt dark and full of shadows. It no longer felt peaceful or even felt like home. As someone who has a tendency to turn agoraphobic during severe anxiety episodes, I now found myself looking for all kinds of excuses to not be in the house. For those who also suffer from mental health issues as I do, “home” is extremely important. Prior to my marriage, I had either lived with a roommate or with a boyfriend. I had never had a place to myself before. I never had a place that was 100% mine. At first the thought terrified me when I moved into my new apartment. Will this just add to my loneliness? Instead, it ended up being a huge turning point but in a positive way. Having a space to call my own helped clear my head. Having to be 100% responsible for myself and having to answer to my own needs? Who knew that would be therapeutic? Plus having my fur babies with me helped me immensely with that transition. A reboot, so to speak. “New home, new me.”
At the end of 2019, I began to feel myself come back to life a bit more. I could feel myself accepting how transformative this past year was. Sure, the first half of the year was dark and depressing. But life was never meant to be easy, and if anyone ever tells you that life is easy then they are lying to your face. Everyone has hardships. Everyone. And everyone grows from those hardships, big or small. I really did want to take back control of my life, and when the tears finally stopped flowing down my face and I realized what my potential could be, suddenly things became more clear.
I can’t change the past. I can’t see the future. But I can be here right now in the present. And dwelling on the past was keeping me so lost. Why can’t things just go back to the way they were? Because life doesn’t work that way. When I finally uttered the words, “That part of my life is over now” to my therapist, it was a revelation I had been waiting for. This is a new part of my life. All the other parts of my life in the past may be gone forever but they helped shape me, and later on down the road this part of my life will be over too. And we can mourn those parts of our lives that are gone now, but we can also celebrate them.
Spending more time in Hong Kong has been beneficial to my health. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I made the leap to spend more time here. I made a lot of sacrifices in making that big decision. A lot. Some of those sacrifices deeply broke my heart, and there are moments I still need to pause and breathe. I still have days where I feel sad. I still have days where I feel I’m just a complete mess. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and my transformative year of 2019 was always expected to flow into 2020. Starting the new year in a new city has felt like a bit of a rebirth. I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but it really is true. Despite the heartache that 2019 was, it really was a year that I began to learn more about myself, and learning more about myself in a new city was something I didn’t realize I really needed to do. I started out last year feeling lost and alone, and that carried throughout most of 2019. But even acknowledging I was lost has been a good step towards a happy, healthy new life so I can continue to grow and work on what I need to.
If you’re still here after reading all that, thank you. Thank you all for your amazing support and understanding as I start on this new path. It means a lot to me that you’ve been rooting for me in private messages and emails over the last year. I have not been able to respond to them all, but please know they’ve all been received and touched my heart.
For those who are also feeling a bit lost, dealing with a heartbreak, making big sacrifices, or struggling with anxiety and depression, please know you’re not alone. Do not be afraid to be selfish and do something for yourself. Do not be afraid to take a step back and unwind. Do not be afraid to speak to a friend or family member or therapist. Do not be afraid to acknowledge what you’re going through. Do not be afraid of the future. And lastly, do not be afraid of who you are.
Orseund Iris top (less expensive version here), PAROSH tulle skirt (similar here), Casadei heels (similar here), Cult Gaia bag (on sale here), Dior mitzah/scarf (I turned it into a belt), Stila lipstick in Baci
Photos by Lydia Hudgens.
I have been waiting for you to write a post like this for a long time. I think you are extremely brave for what you have been through and how far you have come. I wish you all the best for the future and look forward to you getting your magic back with blogging 🙂
You are such a beautiful, strong person. As someone who has been following your Instagram and occasionally reading your blog posts, you are what I want to see and no one else. You are incredibly brave. Incredibly strong. To me, at least. While I loved seeing what I imagined was your fairytale marriage, it wasn’t why I followed you on Instagram. I followed you because of your ability to overcome things, the whole “struggle is real”concept that sooo many hollywooders hush away, and the fact that you lead a life I can only dream of. Whatever good things come your way in the future, I say you deserve it. We are constantly evolving, but enjoy every minute of that evolution. I am so so so inspired by your transparency, you amazing woman. Sending love to your cats and Argos too!
I hope writing your blog post made you feel better, talking about problems is always difficult but can help. I love your blog and Instagram, especially all the history parts, I’m a history student from Scotland :), and especially seeing out explore new countries and cultures. I originally started flowing you because of your ex-husband after I saw Reign but fell in love with your content and style and have followed your blog for years 🙂 p.s I dont follow him anymore because he was boring. Keeping going even though you are going through a tough time is the hardest thing to do but keep going because your blog is amazing!
I’ve been a follower since your pageant days, and watching your transformation into the woman you are today has been inspiring. Thank you for your transparency about your mental health issues. It’s an incredibly brave thing to do. Keep your head held high. You are not a fraud, you are a very strong, successful woman.
Hey Alyssa, as a few of your followers I started follwing you because of your ex husband. Then I started to see your post, your style, tour taste and everything you love. I felt really bad when you gave the bad news and at the same time it felt brave what you did and that you spoke up. People (me included) want to see perfect things on social media, dreaming post, outfits and places, but I believe creators should feel the power to post anything they want and they should be free to express themselves. I admire for what you did, and the way you handled everything, you are truly a beautiful human inside and out and if people in your past don’t want to see that, let it be and keep going because new friendships will come. Best wishes and luck in this New Year and keep it up, you are an inspiration to a lot of us.
So happy to continue to see your growth! I know that as someone who struggles with mental health, seeing you embrace your struggles and share when you can encourages me, and I’m sure others. Keep doing you Alyssa, your true followers and supporters are just happy to see you embracing your uniqueness.
THIS is the post I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been following you and The A list for several years now and this is the post I’m most excited about. It’s as if you’re a phoenix, rising from the ashes. I know these personal, emotional posts are a struggle for you to share and I’m so proud of you for doing so. As always you look lovely, but more importantly, you look like yourself. A stronger, wiser version of yourself who is bravely taking steps to become a happier and better version of who you were in the past. I’m rooting for you, Alyssa, and I hope 2020 is a year filled with rich blessings, deep education, and immense joy.
We often surprise ourselves on how strong and resilient we are. I did at first, start following you because of your ex. But then I was inspired by learning more about you and how relatable we are (crazy cat ladies for life) lol.
I have been through a similar experience in the past 2 years with my own divorce. And now living alone with my 2 cats. I was scared. But it is SO liberating to live on your own. It’s a power that adds to all the magical abilities you have. Enjoy the time. Enjoy being your own best friend. Nothing wrong with it. I have gone through so many emotions these past few years…
I’m happy you posted this. More people need to express their own stories. 🖤
This must have taken such courage. Thank you. This post will mean the world to so many people. It’s exactly what I personally needed to hear today—there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and sometimes “every setback is a setup for a comeback.”
Your vulnerability and openness to change is one of your strongest qualities. I’m so glad you’re feeling more like yourself and cannot wait to see what 2020 has in store for you.
I’m sorry that you’ve been feeling lost and been receiving such negative feedback. I may have started reading your blog because of your ex, but you’ve shown who you are and that’s why I’m still reading. The end of 2019, beginning of 2020 has been a miserable time for me and I am struggling hard core with the anxiety and depression I’ve had for 14 years. Reading about your ways of trying to reframe your year and how you’re trying to refresh your life is inspirational. Please do continue to share, despite other’s negativity, because it does bring hope and comfort to those of us who have felt or are feeling similarly.
I love that you posted this. As someone that originally started following you because of your ex i can say that i am hear to stay. I love seeing your travel pics and recommendations on places that i hope to visit one day. I like how open you are about mental and physical health issues as this is something that I (and others) struggle with everyday. It’s important to show these issues and how we all can overcome them. I started following you for one reason but will continue for another. You are a strong, independent and kind soul and it’s very apparent from your page. I can’t wait to see the growth you achieve this year and beyond. Keep doing you.
I think I’ve commented this before, but it’s your honesty and real-ness that make you one of my favourite bloggers! Yes, I started following you because I was a Reign fan, but I’ve followed you ever since because of your dreamy style and relatable posts, especially about mental health. You posted a while ago about how you sometimes go over everything you said after leaving a social gathering, and I am SO the same way – it gave me so much comfort to know I’m not the only one. I hope you continue to find happiness in the new city, new relationship, and new decade 🙂
Antes que nada, me disculpo por mi español pero espero que el mensaje pueda llegar. Soy Antonella Cataldo de Paraguay (un país muy chico en el corazón de sudamérica). Leí todo tu post y realmente me sentí profundamente identificada con muchas de tus palabras (incluso la mini obsesión con la familia real). Aprecio muchísimo y admiro la valentía con que escribiste cada palabra que se que salieron directente de tu corazón.
Solo quiero decirte que sos una persona amada y que nuestro creador tiene un propósito para vos. Tu vida no es casualidad o un accidente, no sos buena o digna solo por estar con una persona u otra. Sos digna e importante siendo VOS MISMA. Porque vos importás y valés muchísimo. Sos amada, nunca lo olvides.
I am so sorry that you felt alone last year, but I am happy you decided that enough was enough. As a sufferer of anxiety and depression as well, I struggle more than I like to admit with the ‘what ifs’ and the loneliness. Especially this last year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 24. There was a lot of soul searching and hoping and praying that things would work out (and they did, I’m now cancer free!). 2019 was hard, but it was also so beneficial for personal growth. Just know that you have a supporter in your corner. I love everything you post. Keep being awesome!
I’ve never commented on anything of yours before but after reading this, I felt compelled to. Thank you for being so open and sharing with everyone about your struggles. I know that is a ridiculously hard thing to do. I have felt like this and I suffer from anxiety as well. And if sharing was more normalized then maybe so many of us wouldn’t feel so alone during these times. So thank you. And I have no intention of unfollowing you. Sometimes our greatest transformations come out of our toughest obstacles. Getting to know myself all over again was the best part of overcoming those obstacles. I hope you find the beauty in it this year and take whatever time you need to for yourself and your health. Brightest blessings.
This touches me deeply in ways I hadn’t thought of. I deeply relate to the what ifs, the anxieties and home being extremely important. You need a place to feel safe, a place to hide but also a place to just be.. and home can do that!
I have been quietly following you for a bit.. creeping the blog and Instagram before following and I really have been enjoying this journey you have been on. (That sounds weird).
What I mean is, to see you flourish in a whole other way and to see you become stronger and fight for you, what you believe in and just taking back your control.
(I think you’ve always had control) but to find more of your own strength and realize, “hey, I can do this, let’s get up and figure this out”.
I’m in for the ride <3
Be happy. You deserve that. Wishing you many more happy days on your journey.
With love and admiration
Wow, thank you so much for sharing this. I feel so similarly sometimes and it can threaten to overwhelm me (cats definitely help lol). It’s an incredible comfort to know that everyone experiences difficult times, heartbreak, and insecurity. To know that I’m not alone. And if someone as lovely and talented and intelligent as you has moments of self doubt and overcomes them gracefully, well it gives me hope that I can too. On a different note the story above was beautifully organized and written. Have you ever considered writing a book?
Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts. It’s really hard to do. I wish you all the best, and that you find a sense of lasting peace.
Thank you for being open and honest and taking the veil off of what does seem like a picture perfect life. My heart truly breaks for the loss of your marriage, but your openness about the transition relates to so many aspects and situations in life. May God carry you through the hard days and may you glorify His name in the good days. Much love from Texas!
Alissa, I am as proud of you, in getting through this huge change, as I am myself for doing the same. Sometimes the best thing someone can share is their own experiences. It shows they are not alone. What they are going through is normal, regardless of the huge pain. Your helping people by sharing. You will touch and help more people than you will ever know. Keep going, if one day at a time is to much, then one hour at a time. Hope you read my email. As Churchill once said: “Never give up”. Soon the hard stuff will suddenly start to be easy. Lots of love, Sharon. XOXO
It will be okay! It will get better, I know it!! You are wonderful at what you do! And the world is a happier place with you in it!!! Have a wonderful year!
If it were me, I would try not to read the negative comments on Instagram:)
I just wanted to send a big hug and love your way. You don’t owe anyone your presence or an explanation (something a friend told me recently when I was feeling guilty for not blogging in three months), but thank you for your words and so beautifully articulating how I also felt myself for so much of 2019. Here’s to a new decade!
I think any loss experienced, whatever that may be is very hard and also terrifying to begin with. Taking a step back, reflecting and also allowing yourself to cry is so important. A bereavement of any kind, whether the death of someone dear, the loss of a relationship or marriage is sadly something we never want to face but in confronting it, acknowledging it, getting over it, will then enable us to move on. When I say getting over it, I don’t mean entirely forgetting that person passed on from life or no longer in your life, but being able to slowly move forward, step by step and start to enjoy all that was good and made you happy as a person, not what made others with you happy. Focusing on you, your well being, your physical health, beginning to enjoy the little things that have always made you laugh and are a part of you. Wish you well Alyssa, may your future be bright. God Bless
❤️ I’m glad you are doing better! You got this! You’re always much stronger than you think you are. Thank you for the touching post.
Your beautiful words are so healing for all who read them. May you continue to bring your soulful wisdom to others.
With Blessings and Respect, Linda Clark.