Stop What You’re Doing!

And go drink some water-you look a little dehydrated.

And since you’re here, I hope you’re having a rewarding Monday. I wanted to focus today on a little pesky subject that gets the best of us: burnout.

The newest title that millennials get to add to our giant repertoire is the “burnout generation”. I have to say, as someone who has experienced both being a millennial and burnout, this rings especially true.

So what is burnout?

Well, it’s the way you can go to a job for months or years just fine and then wake up with extreme dread about going in. It’s the way little things didn’t bother you and now they’re all you can think about. It’s wanting to pack up and run away rather than face one more day of your life. It’s that cynical depression that makes you furious that it’s even happening in the first place.

Burnout.

According to psychology, burnout can be traced to helplessness and the feeling of being unable to control your environment. A person experiencing burnout may have problems figuring out what to do with their life, may switch jobs more frequently than is industry standard and may have some major health concerns related to burnout (not just psychological ones). Psychology Today mentions that therapy and meds may just erase the symptoms, instead of dealing with the burnout itself.

Ways to fight it are the same things that have been harped on since the beginning of time: sleep more, workout, eat right, self-care. But what if that only post-pones the feelings of existential dread?

Then you wouldn’t be alone.

There’s a Buzzfeed article that talks about what burnout looks like for millennials in more than just a job capacity. It talks about errand paralysis-putting the same to-do list on your calendar (or bullet journal) week after week because you can’t seem to complete it or the inability to return clothes, to mail packages, to complete basic adulting tasks. In fact, the following quote came from the same article (and consequently hit me like a ton of bricks:

” But these students were convinced that their first job out of college would not only determine their career trajectory, but also their intrinsic value for the rest of their lives. I told one student, whose dozens of internship and fellowship applications yielded no results, that she should move somewhere fun, get any job, and figure out what interests her and what kind of work she doesn’t want to do — a suggestion that prompted wailing. “But what’ll I tell my parents?” she said. “I want a cool job I’m passionate about!” ” –https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennials-burnout-generation-debt-work

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a long article. But it’s also 100% worth the read. Because sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not alone. I’m not saying it’ll get better. I’m saying you don’t have to face it alone.

Experiencing burnout? Drop a comment!

One More Rebellion

To understand where this post is coming from, it is important to know that I’ve been in a very pensive, reminiscing attitude lately. I’ve been working on a new book in which much of the young adult culture of the early 2000s plays a part. But also, I’m about to start the semester and that’s the point where I start thinking about how I got to where I am.

Part of the business of growing up is a little thing I’ll call “going corporate”. Masses of people leaving behind the neon hair, the black and red eyeliner, the studded belts and chucks for business suits, natural hair colors and 9-5s.

And I’m not having it.

So many people my age (and older) make comments like:

“I don’t know what I was thinking about that hair.”
“I can’t believe I wore that/dressed like that/went out like that.”
“I’m so glad I grew out of that.”
“I’m so glad that phase ended.”

And that’s fine… for them.

But I look back at the pictures, the memories, the status updates and I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. And the thing is, I can’t remember ever thinking I’d made a mistake. In my closet you’ll find business clothes-interview attire, internship outfits. But you’ll also find band tees, studded belts, two pairs of chucks, and skinny jeans (yep, even my size). My makeup is all deep and vampy.

So imagine my surprise when the suggestion came across my screen that instead of just 2019, we should be celebrating 20NineScene (Scene being the neon cousin of the emo culture that I reference above.). And I could not be more excited.

Because you see, we are the cycles we have lived through. Yes, I believe in moving past periods of time that are too negative for you, that are toxic. After all, what kind of (future) social worker would I be if I supported toxic environments? But why should I (and may others) feel that there is something to be ashamed of by exploring who we are?

So this 2019, instead of walking longingly past Hot Topic and pining for the days when I didn’t feel like a kid in their parent’s business suit, I’m going to allow myself one final rebellion. I want to slide into 2020 (and the return of the Roaring 20s) in the throes of the crimson and black smudged eyes, the black-like-my-soul outfits, the spiky hair, the splashes of neon breaking up the monotony. I never stopped listening to the music I did in high school, and in fact I prefer it to the stuff now (I’m exactly that old). Grunge music like Nirvana and Three Days Grace. Emo punk like All American Rejects. Emo pop like Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy. Dashboard Confessional. My personal favorite, Boys Like Girls. My Chemical Romance. And so many of the glorious others.

In high school, I had so many dreams about who I would be when I approached my current age. And I’m honestly nowhere close. I thought I’d be done with school, traveling, maybe even semi-famous. And if I’m honest with myself, I still hold out for that. It’s why I took a chance on a manuscript that I sent out before winter break to agents. I believe in that manuscript like people praying in church. It’s raw and honest and hopeful-everything I am at my core. I believe that someone will look at it and see the potential, will give me a chance to prove that it’s worth it. I believe in myself.

And none of that would be the case without the high schooler who felt the world a bit too much. Who needed validation more than air. Who wasn’t afraid to rock the red eyeliner, the spiked hair, the black wardrobe. I believe in her as much as she believed in the future. And that’s why I’m completely in support of 20ninescene. Because why on earth would I ever choose to lose who I am just to “go corporate”?

Healthcare in My Country: A Monologue in Three Parts

Image result for stock photo doctorPart One: Physical Health

What is wrong with my foot? Is my toe purple? Why does it hurt so bad? Hmm. Quick Google search annnnd ingrown toenail. Great. Home remedy ingrown toenail. Okay, I need to soak it, put cotton under it, and if it doesn’t get better in a week…Hah! You think the answer is to go to the doctor, but that’s not an option here, bucko. We’re gonna just hope and pray it gets better in a week or I’m gonna die from a bitchy toenail. Awesome. I wonder how bad mine is. Should I look at the pictures? No. Remember how bad you freaked out the last time you looked at pictures? You couldn’t stop picking at your sunburn for a week. Okay. HOLY MOTHER OF CRAP WHY DOES THIS HURT SO BAD? Google: Home remedy ingrown toenail quick. Hmmm I don’t think it’s infected. Apparently that would be icing on this crap cake. Wait. No. Shit. Maybe it’s cause I’m picking at it. Ugh. If I put alcohol on it, I’m going to scream. But there’s no other way. Fuck.

I should have gone to the eye doctor like a year and a half ago. I know you’re supposed to go like once a year, but I don’t have two hundred dollars to drop on an exam and frames. But it’s probably not that bad. I mean, I think I need to stop staring at screens so much. I have these little flashes of light in my periphery. I think I’ll do a quick Google search. Okay, so I have eye cancer, I’m going blind or I’m overexerting my eyes. And I need to go get them checked out. Yea, okay. I’m just gonna shake my money tree and hope enough dollars are ripe for an eye exam. That’s cute. It’s probably not that bad. I’ll just read books or something. Try to stay off the screens. Annnnnd now it’s in my other eye. Well, I should probably learn how to read braille. I’m going to hate being blind. Maybe I could just find out what’s wrong and then I can say no to getting new glasses. That’s still like a hundred dollars. Or I could try Walmart. That’s what I did last time. I don’t have the time right now. Maybe if I work a couple extra hours I can afford it. But I also need an interview outfit for school. I can go to Goodwill and hope they have something in my size. Sigh. I’ll just try to hold out until I have more money.

My teeth hurt so bad. This is more frustrating than a migraine. What even is going on in there? I brush, I take care of my teeth. Sort of. I should probably floss more. Okay. I don’t see any black spots. So no big cavities. That’s a relief. Nothing seems super red. No inflammation. So why is it…oh no. Please don’t be wisdom teeth. Crap crap crap. I was supposed to have those out but they never came in. Is this karma for loving Dr. Pepper? Is that it? I’ve heard about people who keep theirs because they have a big enough gap in the back. Maybe I’ll be lucky. Of course, if they grow in crooked, I’m still screwed. How much is tooth surgery? HOLY BALLS I can’t afford that. I’ll run down to the store and pick up some Orajel. If I can’t get the pain to go away, I’ll figure out what to do then. But until that point, I’ll just keep brushing and I’ll floss. You hear that, little teeth. If you behave, and don’t make me go to the dentist, I will floss and buy some mouthwash and we’ll have a grand old time. Do I even have a dentist? My dental insurance is nonexistent so probably not. I mean, I’m sure there are clinics who do sliding scale. Or maybe I can go to the university and they’ll have students who do it for discounts. They do that at hair schools. Ugh this pain is too much. Maybe I can pull it out myself, like I did with baby teeth. That may have to happen if I can’t find someone to do it for reduced prices. I didn’t want to max out my credit card, but I can’t afford it any other way. I sure hope nothing else bad happens or I’m screwed.

Image result for stock photo mental healthPart Two: Mental Health

Oh no. I think I’m depressed. Should I see someone? No. If I do that, I can’t afford groceries. Or car maintenance. And the sensor’s been on for a while. Am I really that depressed? I am pretty suicidal. Is that a good enough reason to go? Would I act on it? Probably not. I mean, I never have before. I should probably just stay away from anything I could use then. Guess I won’t shave this week. Or take any Excedrin for my stress migraine. Ugh. This is why I’m suicidal, isn’t it? Maybe I *should* see someone. But who would even take me with no insurance? And what are they going to tell me? I need to be on medicine? Sure thing doc, just tell me where I can get free Prozac and I’m all ears. What’s that? I need insurance? Yea, I know. But I can’t afford to eat and go to school and work and pay rent and utilities AND pay for the right to live healthily. Life’s not fair, doc. And it doesn’t get better just cause I need to go talk to somebody.

Do you think normal people see bugs coming out of their ramen? I mean, that has to be stress right? I can just ignore stress. I do that all the time. Jeezus. This mushroom looks like a slug. I can’t eat this. Guess I’ll just starve again today. First it was roaches and then it was spiders and now it’s slugs in my cheap ramen. Where does this stop? Do you think if I died, I’d wake up in a bug universe? God, I wish I could talk to someone. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel like such a freak. But that’s just not in the budget right now. Or, ever, honestly. Would life be better if I got some cheap insurance through school? Would I use it? Probably not. I mean, I hate finding a new therapist. I always feel so judged. They never want to listen to me. They just want to push meds and tell me that I’m overreacting because I’m on my period. I can do that myself, standing in front of the mirror, listing off all the things I’m a failure at while I cry like a baby.

I should probably stay away from social media and my phone in general. It’s only going to make things worse. I’ll start comparing my life to everyone else’s and then I’ll be even more depressed. But I just want to stop feeling alone. Maybe a little won’t hurt. Nope. Everyone seems so put together. I’m such a fraud and a failure. They’re probably friends with me out of pity. They wouldn’t have to pity me if I was gone.

Oh no. I really am depressed. Maybe I should go see someone. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna call the clinic that’s been in my search history for like a month. I heard they do sliding scale. That could be good. I know it’s probably not going to be anything more than just student workers and an overseer, but it has to be better than nothing. Right? Sigh. I shouldn’t waste resources just because I can’t get my shit together. I’ll call if I can’t make this go away in a few days. Until then, just isolate and stay away from all sharp things and all medicines. Great.

Image result for stock photo obgynPart Three: Reproductive Health

I read an article once about women who pursue graduate degrees experience stress in weird ways. One of them was that their cycle becomes less regular and may stop showing up altogether. Maybe that’s what’s happening to me. I’d go get it checked, but an OB/GYN is a specialist and I’m not prepared to pay that out of pocket. I could go to Planned Parenthood, but the nearest one is one whole state over. I’d have to take a whole two days off of work and school to go. Plus the cost of a hotel to stay the night. Unless I got up super early and then just stayed awake. But even so, that’s a lot of wear and tear on the car. If I broke down, I couldn’t make it back. Plus, I’m sure it’s totally fine. Who needs cramps every month anyway?

Of course, if it’s something serious like cervical cancer or something, I am completely screwed. Am I in pain? No. And I’ve saved a ton on not needing to worry about white pants and I don’t even need to buy supplies. Which has been a great grocery bill saver. When was the last time I had one? Like a year ago? Yea, that sounds right. So, even if I had been pregnant, I would’ve found out by now. Awesome.

Oof. It hurts now. Where’s the Advil? Shoot. I’m out. Way to go, me. Should’ve been prepared. I guess I’ll just grab some cold water and the heating pad. Good old heating pad. I hope this pain goes away soon. It’s like my ovaries are being ripped off. What even is that? I’m gonna say nothing serious. If I just stay hydrated, nothing can hurt me. I haven’t been drinking enough water. Shame on me. I know better. I wonder what it must be like to just be able to go to the doctor when something comes up. Do those people even recognize how privileged they are? Oh I’ll put it on one setting higher. Maybe the heat will melt my soul.

I hate that I could be dying of any number of things and I will have to suffer through all of them because I can’t afford insurance. And back when I was on my parent’s insurance, I was given the death sentence of “Pre-Existing Health Condition” so it’s pretty realistic that I may never have insurance again. Awesome. I don’t make enough to save for emergencies, and even when I do, I’m required to pay for car insurance and car repairs and I doubt I could ever save more than a couple hundred dollars. Not even enough for antibiotics or screenings or stuff like that. Poverty is my disease and it’s terminal. Guess I’ll just rely on these home remedies until I’m backed into a corner.

*************************************************************************************

I would like to thank you for reading. Before I explain, I would like to say that I am okay. I am not suicidal, I am not in need of immediate treatment for anything and I have had plenty of water and caffeine today.

I come from a place of privilege. I am a pretty melanin-lacking individual. I married hetero and I’m a cis-presenting individual. (Read: White, married woman). And those are the pertinent aspects of this background. From this platform, I belong to a group of people who collectively seem to have forgotten about the rest of the world (Read: minorities). And that means I need to use my platform to speak out.

These experiences above are true. I kept them honest for the purpose of illuminating. I’m a graduate student. And that means I am part of the faceless poor. The people you don’t think of when you think “food bank” or “government assistance”. But I belong to a subset of poverty that is directly linked to healthcare. I don’t have insurance-I aged out of my parent’s and if something goes wrong, I-like millions of Americans-are left to chance. This is a harsh reality for much of the American public. I’m hoping by using my white privilege, maybe someone will understand that this is a real issue that needs a quick, successful solution.

This does not even begin to address the issues facing trans individuals, pregnant people, people with physical chronic illnesses, people of color, addiction or a plethora of other issues. I encourage you to consider these and others, as they make up additional pieces of the story I have presented.

And a quick shout-out to these stock photos. 10/10.

New Colossus

Twas the night before July Fourth, and honestly I’m not sure how to feel.

Do I celebrate freedom, when so many are in cages?

Do I celebrate democracy, when the popular vote didn’t win?

Do I celebrate liberty, when my rights are decreasing?

Do I celebrate the military, in which I have family serving?

Do I celebrate the pursuit of happiness, when I seldom see it?

Honestly, I don’t much feel like celebrating Independence Day. It feels a little too ironic and short-sighted. It feels like we haven’t come so far from where we were 200 years ago. And I guess that bothers me. But I think that there’s something to be said about the here and now.

A couple hundred years ago, my ancestors began coming to America. They were escaping persecution, famine, war, the plague and more. They wanted to start over. And some came with nothing. Some came with their families, some came with more. But one by one they all came. One or two had been here in America since time immemorial, but almost everyone came from somewhere else. They were met with uncertainty and fear. They may have treated others kindly, or maliciously, I don’t know.

For most of my life, I wondered about those people. About what it must have been like to travel to somewhere they had no ties and just start over. I didn’t know their names then, but I wondered what they thought about, how it felt, why they chose what they did. And I know that coming to Kansas wasn’t the same thing, but it has many similarities.

Image result for statue of liberty immigration

I drove through the night, we had car trouble, we left so much of our stuff behind. We came here without knowing anyone here. We came here to start over, and to be educated. We came with what we could stuff in our tiny vehicle and said goodbye to our parents, friends, homes. I remember passing cornfields I’d looked at for decades and wondering when I would see them again. I remember taking pictures of places we’d worked, we’d visited, just to keep the memory of how things were. I remember leaving in the dead of night, knowing it would be a long time before I’d feel comfortable with my choices.

And when we got here, nothing made sense. It was like exploring a new place with no understanding of where anything was, who anyone was. We were alone here for three ish weeks. And it was the longest, loneliest three weeks of my life. School began and things felt more familiar. Ish.

All that to say, I didn’t come to Kansas because I was afraid for my life in Ohio. I came because I needed a chance at a better future.

I watch the news, as much as I can stomach, and I see the people coming to the borders, asking for no less than I did. Asking for no less than my ancestors did. And they are being denied. And it breaks my heart and boils my blood.

I am incredibly lucky to have had ancestors who took a chance on somewhere completely foreign. I am no less fortunate to have made my own journey for the same reasons. But the people coming today are being forced away, shoved into internment centers, subjected to all kinds of humanitarian terrorism. The difference between them and myself or my ancestors is one single thing. My ancestors were largely white and came from Europe. And that is not, in any way, acceptable.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

New Colossus, Emma Lazarus
The base of the Statue of Liberty

This is my anthem. This is who I am. This is the America I believe in, not the tyrannical, dictator-led America that everyone sees. I stand for the immigrant’s America.

 

Spirit Bands

This took place over a decade ago, but I feel like it’s pertinent. I’m doing my best to report it with integrity.

When I was in 6th grade, the administration of the school came up with the idea of spirit bands. They were little bracelets in our school colors that could be used for what was considered special rewards: going first in lunch lines, bathroom privileges and things like that. We were told that if we did not have bands, we could not buy juices or carbonated drinks at lunch, we would sit at a table designated for non-wearers and would have to wait for everyone else to get lunch before we could. You could lose your band if you were in trouble-which meant that any trip to the office took away your right to go to the restroom until you earned your band back (a process which took an indeterminable amount of time). They said it was to encourage us to be good students.

Image result for spirit bands

Now, in sixth grade, we were about 12. None of us had had really solid world history, and we were mostly innocent children. And then one day, we asked-well, what about people with diabetes? If they don’t have bands, they can’t get lunch. And if they can’t get lunch, their blood sugar could be at risk. The response was a very hesitant “they should have bands”. And that, my good readers, is when the revolution began.

Someone, I’m assuming someone with an older sibling, began to talk about how this was just like Nazi Germany-people being segregated based on an arbitrary division, handed down by those in power. A systematic oppression. We sent round a petition. We stopped wearing the bands. We did as much as 11 and 12 year olds could, to stop a system we believed to be unjust.

And we were met with some pretty furious administrators. I’m sure they were not happy about the spending of thousands of dollars on things they thought would be useful. I’m sure they were not happy that a bunch of 6th graders compared them to Nazis. I’m sure that was uncomfortable. But we won. None of us had to wear those bands anymore.

So why am I telling you this?

Because if, as a child of 11 or 12, we knew that something was unfair and we were able to change the tides, think of what we can do now, as adults? When there are actual Nazis to fight, deep injustices to rebel against.

I get it-being angry about this administration is hard. It’s been a long battle so far and we’re still going. It’s exhausting. It’s humiliating. It’s degrading. But resisting it is what is right. And what is right may not always be what is easy-but it is always what is right.

Think about all the terrible things that have happened since the 2016 election was revealed. Think about all the people you’ve had to leave in the past because they were accepting of a man who can destroy human rights with a sweep of his hand. Think about how many marches and letters to your representatives and how scared and angry you are.

And then think of all the millions of people who were marching with you. Who sent their letters too. Who stood up and said “Me too.” Who stopped thinking of just themselves and started working for the greater good. Think of the justice workers, the resistance, the handmaids, the people who are fighting with all they have. Because for each atrocity that the current dictator engages in, there are those who refuse to remain silent about it. Who whistle blow. And think about how you are not alone.

I know it’s hard-especially when you get onto social media and you see trolls and bots repeating the same terrible lies you grit your teeth at. Trust me. I know it’s infuriating to be gaslit. But keep going.

If not for yourself, for the thousands of children who are now at the mercy of people in Washington. For the thousands of children in foster care and abusive homes. For the thousands of women who do not have access to reproductive health care. For the thousands of LGBTQ people who are afraid they will face conversion therapy. For the thousands of people of color who are judged harshly for nothing more than the melanin of their beautiful skin. For the thousands of religious minorities who are afraid to practice their beliefs in public. For the thousands of immigrants who face the tyranny of America because they face death in their own home. For the thousands who do not have a voice of their own.

Keep going.

Keep fighting.

Where Are The Children?

As many people are aware by now, almost 1500 children have been lost by my government. And I want to talk about it. Because it needs to be talked about.

But also, I want to talk about Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzales, the 20 year old Guatemalan woman who was shot at the border of the United States.

Imagine graduating college with an accounting degree, and being unable to find a job. You decide that your only option is to leave behind everything you knew, your own people, coming on a journey that left you with very little to your name, seeking safety. You’re tired, exhausted really, ready to collapse when you finally make it to the border of a country that you believe will accept you in. And in a rapid turn of events, you hear “This is what happens. You see?” And then you are no more. Your family screams, but you do not hear, because you are dead.

Ella no merecía morir. Nadie merecían morir. Su familia vengan para vivir una vida mejor y todos somos responsables de eso.

She did not deserve to die. No one deserved to die. Her family came in order to live a better life and we are all responsible.

Image result for claudia patricia gomez gonzalez

Of the 7000 children who were separated from their parents this past year, almost 1500 of them are “missing”. These lost children of America were given to “foster” families-some of whom were known human traffickers. The American Government saw fit to sell children into slavery.

Our government-no matter how much or little you agree with it-sold children into slavery. 

Just keep repeating it until you puke. Because that’s what I did. And then get active. Jam the fax machines in congress. Jam the fax machines in your governor’s office. Donate to the ACLU and SPLC. Find the children. Because no matter which agency, under whose orders, these are the people who represent America. And until all of the children are found and brought to safety, this is all our faults.

Our fault for being apathetic. Our fault for being lazy. Our fault for allowing this pompous, fascist dictator to remain in office. Our fault for accepting oppression as safety. Our fault for brushing off the news as “sad”, as “at least it doesn’t affect me”, as anything other than our responsibility. Our fault for not shutting down slavery-even though it is 2018. Our fault for not demanding equality loud enough, often enough.

So rise up people. Rise up with your rage, your sadness, your inequality. This is a war we’re fighting. And if we lose? It’s not just immigrant children who will suffer.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

And while we’re at it-where is the justice for the First Nations? Did you know the police incited violence at Standing Rock is still unfinished? There are innocent protesters who are still facing trials for defending their rights.

Where is the justice for African Americans? The NFL fining teams for kneeling during the anthem is against everything our country stands for. This protest was everything that was claimed to be acceptable-peaceful, non-violent, non-destructive, silent, safe. If you can’t respect that, you’re a hypocrite. Where is the justice for the people of color who are shot for no reason other than the underlying racism in America?

Where is the justice for the children who are more likely to be shot that someone who is currently serving in the military? Where are the safety precautions? The stricter regulations? Where is the political outrage over the fact that America is fighting a war it didn’t even recognize it had? And where is the justice for the victims who are blamed for the actions of those school shooters? The children who are slut shamed (or prude shamed)? The children who are gaslit for every incident that happens to them-much exactly the same way the adult Americans are gaslit into believing that hopes and prayers are the answer?

Where is the justice for women? For people in poverty? For immigrants? For religious minorities? For victims of sexual assault and rape and domestic violence?

And the list, I promise you, goes on. And on. And on.

If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.

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!