I became an egg.

Ben and I got into a discussion earlier in the semester about how we’ve both changed. And a great chunk of it is for the better. But because we’re both in school, and surrounded by people that aren’t us, we’re picking up the mannerisms and behaviors of those other people. Me more than him. (I’m a people sponge.) And as we were talking, the story of the boiling water popped into mind.

The Campbell’s soup (condensed) edition of this story is that a child had an anger outburst and the parent, boiling water on a stove, asked them to retrieve an egg, a carrot and coffee. Pouring three cups of boiling water, each of the items was placed in a separate cup for a few minutes. When asked what the foods had to do with the anger, the parent replied that the egg, which had started off soft and fragile, when placed in hot water, became hard and rigid. The carrot, while firm and strong at first, became pliable and easily enough cut down. But the coffee, the coffee changed the water itself.

This is, of course, the metaphor for dealing with hard times. You either become tough and hardened, soft and depleted or you change the situation altogether.

Unfortunately, law school was my hot water and I became an egg.

Last semester was all about me surviving the frying pan without jumping into the fire. I threw up walls, didn’t let others in and became an all-around really oppressive force. I was so convinced that I needed to constantly prove my worth that I began to be, well, a bully. And I felt the change. I felt the words tumble out of my mouth the way bile does. I didn’t seem to be able to stop myself. I had wanted so badly to prove that I could handle everything that I was actually proving exactly the opposite.

Thus the talk.

Image result for free stock images coffee

(Image from FreeImages.com)

Now, I don’t know if it’s possible to become coffee from an egg. But I’ve noticed the shift-just slightly-and I like it much more. I hold what I’ve deemed “Lunch Therapy” where other students come and we all sit and talk about what’s bothering us while we eat lunch. I ask people about their day, their life, I take an interest. Not because I’m trying to change the climate of the school, but because that’s who I am. Not the person who picks up on insecurities and jokes about them, but the person who cares too much. A couple people have really gotten into the idea, and I’m hoping that it will catch on, because it helps everyone focus on that self-care.

And I don’t know why I thought that was a bad thing. Empathy was my style since high school-when I used to stay up all night and talk people down from suicide. People would call and text me and I’d sneak around my house to find a private place and listen. I’ve always created a safe space for people to help themselves heal. Why was I so unwilling to carry that trend?

Because I had wounds that needed healing too.

And that, friends, is the thing about self-care. If you don’t keep up on it, if you put it to a back-burner for a while, you’ll be notified really plainly that you’re in trouble. And it’s so much more than drinking water and getting sleep and social activities. It’s the small, annoying things that make a huge difference. And for me, it was a void of validity. I needed something to make me feel worthy/respected/accepted/etc. And I thought that what I was doing was it, but I was wrong.

When I gave up facades for lent (for a religion I don’t practice, no less), this was the journey I agreed to. Restructuring my life so that instead of a rotten egg, I’d get back to being the earthy, grounded, free-spirit, passionate, hurricane of a me.

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Cranberry Juice

It’s been a while since my last post, in short because of my health. While usually that means the mental flavor, this time it was physical health. But because it ties in really nicely with a conversation I had recently, I thought I’d pop down some thoughts. This ties into a lot of what I’m about: education, mental health, self-care, and well, let’s just get to the point.

I tell this story more frequently these days, but perhaps it just feels that way because everyone who knew it is several states away. I was a freshman in high school. I was still in the process of being diagnosed (mental health) and the professional assisting me asked:

“What do you do when you think about suicide and self-harm?”

To which I replied,

“I go drink a Dr. Pepper.”

And the advice I received was:

“Then every time you feel depressed, why don’t you go get one and drink it? That will take your mind off of those thoughts long enough to change your mind.”

And that’s where my story begins. What I’m sure was supposed to be a distraction from the thoughts which pervade the angsty teenage years, quickly became a self-medicating venture. Each time I felt sad, down a can would go. That quickly became bottles, which soon became liters. If Dr. Pepper were alcoholic, I would have died of liver failure. But we’re not to that point yet.

Because I drank so much of that delicious goodness (and it’s still my very favorite drink today), I developed a tolerance for caffeine. I was growing more and more tired as the days wore on and soon discovered the mystifying effects of energy drinks. By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d become a connoisseur. I absolutely adored Venom Black Mamba’s, but even those didn’t have enough caffeine. I started undergrad in the fall of 2011 and that was about the time that I’d finally graduated to the Monster BFC’s.

Now, for those who never got into energy drinks, or just simply don’t know, the BFC (Big Fucking Can) contained 32oz or 4 full cans of Monster in one. And I would drink it in one go. This is about the time that organ failure came into play. I didn’t make it through my first semester of undergrad because my kidneys began to fail. I spent a great many days in the hospital because I couldn’t process water. Water. And I learned that I would need to do a great deal of care to rebuild what I had damaged.

My symptoms were fairly simple and were immediately confused with stress induced fainting spells mixed with a cold. But the fever, the fainting and the dehydration were incredibly strong indicators that I wasn’t just stressed. Even so, it took a long time before someone took me seriously. What had begun as a UTI became a bladder infection, became a kidney infection, became almost death. All from the things that were supposed to stop me from thinking about dying. Huh.

I’m not saying that I blame the healthcare professional who told me to drink a Dr. Pepper each time I was in a bad place mentally. What I’m saying is that for a teenager who wasn’t in a good place, vague instructions like that nearly killed me.

So zip to more recently. During my finals, I met the wrong end of a cross-contaminated batch of food and ended up taking a law school final with a fever so high, I was delirious. I drank water and gatorade until I felt like I was going to burst. But not once did I think about how what was going on would affect my kidneys.

This would end up being my mistake. And I’ve spent the past week and a half chugging water and cranberry juice, mixing essential oils and all kinds of medicines. And I remembered what it was like to be that teenager away at college and not understanding what was happening to them. This time, I knew the signs and knew how to fix it. I’m feeling better (finally) and I’m looking forward to the new semester.

You hear a lot about eating disorders being food. And obviously that makes sense. But I wonder how many other people out there are medicating not with chewables, but with soda and energy drinks and the things that simply don’t require a legal age-but are absolutely just as destructive as the things that do. Perhaps we need studies on this.

So folks, I’m not going to say not to drink these things. I’m going to say treat your energy drinks like alcohol: one can + one bottle of water. Your kidneys will thank you!

Life Hands You Lemons

Never apologize for burning too brightly or collapsing into yourself every night. That is how galaxies are made.-Tyler Kent White

I promised myself that one thing would happen when I went to law school: that I would become comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. Here’s my reflection so far.

One of the first things a person learns after a bout of depression, or a suicide recovery is that waking up each day often requires a constant choice. I’m not talking about “I will live today”. I’m talking about “I will get out of this bed and keep fighting, even though I’m exhausted and I really would rather just go back to sleep.” And it’s hard. At first, it’s like listening to the most grating sound on repeat inside your head. “I will get out of this bed…I will get out of this bed…I will get out of this bed…” And you have to keep updating it as the day goes on. Getting out of bed soon becomes “I will make myself look professional and keep fighting…” which in turn becomes “I will keep fighting.”

Then one day, you don’t have to scream those words at yourself so loudly. It becomes less of a command and more of a mantra. “I will keep fighting.”

So too it is, as I found out, with my current life choices. I chose to go to law school, and suddenly I found myself in a world I didn’t seem fit for. I feel like an outsider, like everything is designed to keep me out. And each day I woke up with my mind screaming at me “I will get out of this bed and keep fighting, even though this is really hard, I’m exhausted and I really need more sleep.” Each day felt a little bit more like a battle and a little less like an academic exercise. Until it didn’t.

I woke up this morning and sat in silence for a moment. I had spent the past two weeks drowning out the fear that I felt bubble up from the moment I woke up. And I stopped and listened to it. Why was I afraid? Why was I struggling?

The quote at the top of today’s blog comes from a poem (which I heard about from one of my favorite celebrities). Fear and shame are some pretty powerful things when it comes to the human condition. They will trick you out of opportunities to change the world by simply making the world uninviting to you.

But here’s the thing.

The world isn’t unwelcoming to you. The world is everything you are willing to be uncomfortable enough to do. And trust me, it will be uncomfortable. But it will always be worth it.

 

Te Cuidas..En Dos (o Mas) Idiomas

I read an article once about a man coping with his wife’s mental breakdowns and how she would switch languages whenever she became depressed. I remember thinking “Wow! I can relate!” and not really understanding that there were people who suffered in only one language. I mean, obviously it’s entirely acceptable and completely normal to use the language you are comfortable with and fluent in to express yourself.

For me, bilinguialism is a tip off that I’m about to become depressed.

Think of it like listening to the radio. When you’re happy, you listen to songs about fun and happy times. When you’re sad, like when you’re getting over a break up, you listen to sad songs, songs you can cry to and scream at. But my “playlists” turn to a whole different language.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to use multiple languages in a general setting. It helps me professionally, it gives me access to other cultures and some really excellent foods. But when my heart is breaking, when the deep clouds of depression are hovering, my own language fails to live up to my needs. English leaves something to be desired.

I notice the change very abruptly. Instead of involving myself casually in another language, I will switch entirely from English into the other one. My music will become entirely Latinx, for example. Or I will only read in Cyrillic. Sometimes it will be a little more gradual and I’ll switch my recipes to all Kenyan, then start writing myself notes in Swahili. And then I will refuse to speak in English, I’ll write my grocery list in something else and I will immerse myself in this entire other state of being. It is then that I realize I need to double-down for some self-care time and take care of myself. When I start pulling out of my depression, I can go back to enjoying those same activities, but without the despair that anti-mania brings. Those extra cultures give me a safe place to go so I can start to heal.

In the realm of mental health and self-care, it’s really common to hear about things to look out for: an increase in impulsive behavior for mania, apathy for depression, paranoia for psychotic episodes and more. Physical symptoms take a really forward presence in your overall health, the life threatening symptoms next and then the ongoing symptoms. Signs you’re about to enter into a “danger zone” come in lists, self-help articles and off-handed comments. But it’s much harder when no one talks about potential tip offs that aren’t as common-but still just as serious.

When I was learning other languages, I was told that they would be keys to a door. I didn’t ask what that door would look like because I thought it was “to other cultures”. It turns out, it was a door to self-expression and the way I know I need to prepare myself for the pending breakdown.

Whatever your tip offs, you shouldn’t doubt yourself. And you should always invest in your own self-care. You know yourself best.

Great Migration Analysis

Moving across the country is not for the faint of heart. Especially when that moves comes at a double eclipse month with several retrogrades and no money. But for posterity’s sake, I want to detail our time-even if it’s just to laugh about in the future.

My husband, dog and I left Ohio on August 3-just one week ago. What should have been about 12 hours full go turned into a 15 hour car trip. And it wasn’t without incident. We made it out of Ohio with ease (although it felt like it took forever) and into Indiana, actually a little early. We hit overnight construction and it ate up half an hour, but that wasn’t so bad. We made it to Terra Haute and stopped for gas. By then it was drizzly. We left the gas station and it began to deluge. And in the middle of a one lane construction zone highway, our driver side windshield wiper flew off. We waited for the rain to subside, but ended up spending over an hour just inching up between construction cones until the next exit when we searched for a Walmart. In the pouring rain, in a Walmart parking lot, at 2:30AM, my husband got out and changed the windshield wiper-something neither of us had done before. The rain slacked off soon after and we returned to our trip.

Missouri came much later, but we reached St. Louis and I had to make a stop. The first gas station’s bathroom keys were stolen and the second gas station had no restroom at all. So I waited until Columbia-quite a long drive later. We got out of Missouri as soon as possible-especially with that ACLU/NAACP travel advisory going on. The whole state just seems…troubled. And you’d really have to be there to understand.

Kansas came as a relief, honestly. It meant we only had about two hours left to drive and then we could get out and about. But they were long hours nonetheless. We get to our apartment (finally!) and it’s, well, it’s something. The people were very accommodating, but compared to Columbus, it just didn’t compete. There are huge stains in our carpet, we spent almost half an hour going over things in our apartment which were defects from the last tenant. Then we are charged for 2 months upfront (which I planned for, but hoped against.) Then we took an emergency nap (because we hadn’t slept in going on 36 hours) and it was off to do errands. We made it to the utility office to turn on our water-success!

My dad had thoughtfully booked us a hotel room for that night (because we had no bed). The hotel told us when we arrived that they would not be able to charge his card and needed mine. I didn’t budget in that kind of money, but desperately needed rest. We order pizza and then sleep until the morning.

We return to our apartment and begin putting things away. Our appliances look like they’re maybe 20 years old, are incredibly loud and our water squeaks. I almost jumped out of my skin when the washing machine turned on. And while we’re on the subject, our washing machine holds 5 pairs of jeans-total. So laundry is going to be fun this year. Sunday, we went to the store, picked up some essentials and began to make our life in our little apartment. The walls are thin, the people are polite-but too much so. I suppose that’s a weird thing to note, but it’s like being in the deep south without the drawl.

Internet didn’t get turned on until yesterday. Our bed got delayed until today. My financial aid is up in the air currently because I have to go through extra verification. And I need to stop on that for a moment.

My financial aid is due (at the LATEST) September 1. I logged in and saw a flag on my account. I was told I needed to do some extra verification steps-which could take 3 weeks from receipt of all forms. Which puts finality at August 31 if all papers were received today. But I have to deal with the IRS-so that clearly won’t happen. I called the school and asked what I could do, because I’m not trying to cause trouble, I just want to change the world. I was told that if my paperwork was late, and they didn’t finish it, I’d be charged a late fee-even if they had everything received. And so, last night, with money I couldn’t afford to spend, I went to the store and bought a printer and started filling out my paperwork. Here’s the kicker though-they didn’t put the flag on my account until August 3. Which means that I was already screwed before I had a chance.

And that’s about when the panic kicked in. Because I am just one person and the universe has not been kind.

I wish this was everything. It’s not-not even by a mile. But I want to stop there because I know it sounds like I’m just having a bitch session. And while it’s helpful to list complaints, that’s not everything.

Because when I decided to come here, I asked myself what my goal was. And yes-law school is important to me. But I wanted a personal goal. And I decided upon the following:

I want to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Those were my exact words. It’s felt like I’ve eaten them since I got here, but I had in mind going to new places so that I could get over my social anxieties. I imagined a life of friends and cordial interactions. I imagined a little nest in a red state in which I could plant myself and allow blue flowers to grow. I thought about all the diversity I could bring this little Christian corner of a country that flourishes in differences.

I feel overwhelmed, under prepared and honestly, I just feel like I’ve made a really big mistake. But at rock bottom, I have no where else to go but up. And I find peace in that. I’m not saying that I am just oblivious to this struggle. I feel like I’m in survival mode 100% of the time. But each day brings me a little closer to being completely okay. And I think that’s important. I kept pushing this frustration and rage and anxiety into the closet I’d labeled “Adjustment”. But it’s more important to admit to myself that I’m in over my head and that’s okay. Because if this is the worst that comes at me, I’m dealing. And that means my goal is gonna be accomplished and law school can’t be harder than that.

 

WBD 2017

Today, is World Bipolar Day. And I keep thinking about September, when we lost our Blahpolar, Ulla. I didn’t know her exceptionally well, but she’s been on my mind all day. For a couple days, actually. It’s something that comes back to me in the quiet times of the day, when my mind stills.

I usually do a story about my journey-or a story about Van Gogh today, in recognition of WBD, but it doesn’t seem fitting.

We’re learning about mental illness in two of my classes: one on Women’s Political Health and the other on Human Trafficking. Which, I think is another thing that’s been weighing on my mind a lot-what with the political stuff going on.

So I wanted to share the PPT from my Human Trafficking course, because it contains information about mental health, which is pertinent to today, and actually is just really nice to look at, as far as organization goes. But formally, here’s the citation:

Meshelemiah, Jacquelyn. “Mental Disorders: Victims of Human Trafficking.” Social Work 5005. The Ohio State University, Columbus. 30 March 2017. Lecture. https://1drv.ms/p/s!AnoC6cSUwVxQiQLbMEn4xJiZJX0g

The link is in the citation.

The thing is, for a long time, I saw today as a way to share my own story, to let people know that they weren’t alone, because I understood. And that is still true. But sharing time is over. Now is the time for action and education. Because if we only see part of the picture, we’ve failed ourselves.

Mental illness doesn’t just hit a specific demographic. It isn’t the dregs of society or the elite. It isn’t the homeless, the well off, the insured, the religious, the secular, the white people or people of color. It’s everyone in every category. But the ones who get left out often, are the ones who have “much bigger” problems-such as those who are trafficked or homeless or abused. But if we don’t pay attention to the whole person, we’re not paying attention at all.

And that’s what’s come back to me each time. We aren’t paying attention. We’re hearing but not listening. We’re looking but not seeing.

It’s been a long day.

I’ve spent the last few weeks being less active on social media and more active in the political realm. I’ve learned a lot, been frustrated a bit and gained some clarity. Words are such powerful tools. We use them, we don’t think about it. And you know, that seems awfully silly coming from me. I sit on my pedestal and preach the power in intention and am blown away by the way language is used to convey meaning.

But I want to focus on something that happened in my personal life a week or so ago. Because I’ve been reflecting on it so much.

As a kid, I wasn’t super close with my parents. I loved them, to be sure, as all children do. But I don’t think I appreciated them as much as I do now-which is very typical I think. Anyway, since reaching this weird age, I’ve grown to be more appreciative.

Anyway, cut to last week when I had a break down in front of my dad. How mortifying. I told him that I was struggling, and that I didn’t understand why everything seemed so hard. I told him that I saw how hard he worked and how I thought I was making all the right decisions and still things weren’t working out. And he said to me

You can do all the right things for all the right reasons and things still might not work out. It doesn’t mean you failed, it means you’re not done yet.

As I said, I’ve reflected on that every day. I wrote it down in my bullet journal because it was something I needed to hear.

I get so wrapped up in things that I don’t always see the big picture that I’m wrapped up in. It’s the forest for the trees scenario. I want so much to for things to be balanced. Each time I try to look at the big picture, I ask for just one thing. Not for my life to turn out the way I want, with no worries and no troubles. But for balance. You see, somewhere along the way I decided that for each bad thing that happened, there would be a good thing to counteract it.

So for example, saving money and being responsible instead of partying and splurging should mean that I have money to cover all the bills without being stressed out.

But that’s not how it works. And often times it doesn’t account for emergency situations. And I think that’s why I needed to hear the message above. I’m just not done yet. I have to keep going. And believe me, it’s not something I think about with glee. I’m worn out. I’m exhausted. I want things to be okay.

But I’m not done yet. And that’s okay. I’ve just got to keep fighting and everything will work out.

I suppose this blog today is for my own benefit more than anything else. I know that life is hard. And I know that sometimes you just need a break that you can’t have and that more than anything it’s all about endurance. Taking a moment to make sure you’re okay before you keep pushing forward is important and I know I need to hear that. I’m a give-until-there’s-nothing-left kinda person. I get used up and then I don’t know what to do. So it’s time for me to unlearn that and figure out how to make my own balance.