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!

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Opinions are like…

As you may find, there will be times in your life when you’ve made the decision that’s best for you and suddenly people are coming out of the woodwork to tell you their take on it. They might mean well, but ultimately, you probably didn’t ask for their opinion in the first place.

There are a couple competing factors in my life right now, and that’s where this all stems from. First-law school. Second-the move associated with it. Third-my new artwork. There are a couple more, but this is probably a solid start.

I told my parents about law school, told several people at the university, told my in-laws. And each of them had a thought. Some of them were quite welcome, some not so much. Naturally, as news does, my upcoming decision spread. Through the course of that spread, an acquaintance told my mom that I shouldn’t move to one of the schools because they were moving there and it would be awkward. One person told me that I was mistaken to have applied to one of the schools. Several people didn’t even say congratulations before telling me that I was moving too far away. I had a lot of people tell me I was moving too far actually.

And my artwork, well, that would be my tattoo. The one I got so I could look at it everyday and remind myself that I control my future, and that if I’m unhappy I have the power to change it. That one. Most people have been very supportive. And yet, there have been those who immediately cracked down on the “regret”, “mistake” and “you shouldn’t have”. I expected that when  I got it, I’ll be honest. Did I roll my eyes? Of course I did. But here’s why.

I make the decisions in my life. I account for my husband and our dog. I know better than outsiders about my finances, my life choices and my motives for doing things. If you don’t sit down with me and do my budget, research schools, spend countless hours looking at statistics for our new home-then you have really no business telling me how to run my life. I choose what I do because it fulfills one of two requirements. One: it makes me happy. Two: it’s the best option for my family. And that’s that.

This whole month has been an experience in brushing things off. And although I can’t say that I’ve succeeded in letting nothing get to me, I’m much more capable of it than before. So naturally, I have some things that helped me.

  1. Sort out the message from the words. Maybe that advice giver had a great point about your decision that you want to consider further. But maybe it’s lost in their opinion. Chuck the opinion out and work on the “good stuff”.
  2. Check yourself. Leave your sensitivities at the door. If you let every single thing get under your skin, it’s gonna be a long day. Are there some things you should be frustrated about? Sure! But not everything-or you’ll go mad.
  3. Choose wisely. As I said, I knew there would be naysayers about my tattoo-so I was prepared. I should have been prepared for the people who did that to my law school choices, but I wasn’t. So I spent longer than I should have working through it.
  4. Work through it. Forgiveness, as I learned from a trusted “advisor” isn’t a one-and-done event. It’s constantly choosing to forgive them over being hurt. Holding on to that anger hurts you more than it hurts them. Really.
  5. Self care. Seriously. Making big life decisions is hard enough without adding in unwanted opinions. Make sure that you’re caring for yourself on all levels-including taking time to just do nice things for yourself. It can make all the difference and you’ll be better off.

One last unsolicited piece of advice (hah-get it? Because this post is…nevermind): don’t sink. I know how easy and tempting it is to smear people with little passive aggressive messages. I do. But you made the choices because they were best for you. Don’t jeopardize that by stooping. You do you!

opinion

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.

Scheduling a Breakdown

(I submitted this to The Mighty a couple days ago, but I know they’re busy, so I thought I’d share it here. I’ll snag the link if/when it goes live. Until then, you can find my articles here.)

It seems like the minute I have a hundred things to do, my brain decides it’s the perfect time for a breakdown. Even though I have no time for it, it’s not convenient and I really don’t want to think about all the things my depression brain focuses on, I find myself doing all of those things instead of my full calendar. So I’ve put together a list of things that help me put a pin in my symptoms momentarily so I can finish up a few things.

1. Set aside time for yourself.
Trust me, as someone who understands all about
procrastinating, this can seem like both an obvious thing and an impossible
thing to do. But I’m talking about a five minute break here or there. Drink
your cup of coffee, slowly. Smell the steam, watch your creamer swirl in the
cup. Live the experience fully. Go get the mail. Do you hear any crickets? The
sound of ice crunching beneath your feet? This little break reminds you to catch
a little perspective and maybe distract you long enough to work through it.

2. Let yourself be upset.
Telling yourself that you’re not that upset only makes you worse. If you
absolutely can’t be upset-do math. It can be simple, like 1+1, 2+2 and so on.
As it turns out, your brain doesn’t like feeling emotions and doing math at the
same time, so you can usually stall your tears for a moment. But if you have
the ability, just be upset. Again, it can be a little five minute moment in
which you feel like the world is crashing around you and all hope is gone. I
ugly cry, take a tissue and blow my nose then get up and grab some water. I’m
not saying I’m done being upset, but if I let myself be upset in little bits,
then it doesn’t come out in a marathon. It’s your right to be upset. Even if
you don’t think there’s a reason. The way you’re feeling is completely valid.

3. Find something you wanna smile about.
I hate the advice “just turn that frown upside
down”. Sometimes that’s the absolute last thing I want to do-and even then it
just makes me angrier, or cry harder. But what I’m talking about is finding
something that you know you enjoy and experience it. If you think penguin’s
laughing is cute-find a video (I think it’s fantastic). If you know you smile
when you make chicken parmesan, make it. Like bubble baths? Take one. Because
finding something to enjoy usually results in some kind of self-care and let’s
be honest-is that ever a bad thing?

4. Take a deep breath.
This isn’t a novel idea, but it’s important.
Your whole body needs oxygen to function. Your brain is absolutely no
different. Think about how hard your brain is working, trying to manage
everything, fix problems (especially the ones you’re worrying about “for
nothing”). You need air. Plus, if you take a moment and focus on your
breathing, sometimes you’ll find that you already knew the answer to the
problems, you were just so focused on everything all at once that you didn’t
notice.
While you’re breathing, try this little
exercise. Take one breath in and list five things you see. Breathe out. Take
another breath and list four things you hear. Breathe out. Take one more breath
and list three things you smell. Breathe out. One more breath and list two
things you can feel. Breathe out. Take another breath and list one thing you
can taste. Breathe out. Take another breath and carry on about your day.

5. Get a validation outfit.
This is one of my favorite things, and it
happened completely on accident. I got a sweatshirt a couple sizes too big and
washed it and decided that I would only wear it when I felt like a terrible
person. I told myself that while I was wearing it, I wasn’t allowed to degrade
myself. The shirt itself has a graphic about always loving yourself, so I
thought I’d wear it when I needed a reminder that I’m not a monster, and that I
matter. It hangs in my closet until I feel depressed, or feel worthless and
then I put it on and read the words. And when the thoughts popped into my head
like “I’m an idiot.” Or “I’m unlovable.” I look at the words on my shirt and
force myself to take ten seconds to say something nice about myself. “I am
fierce. I am valid. I am irreplaceable.” The nice thing about validation
outfits? They can be anything: a business suit, a pair of shoes, earrings, a
bracelet, a pair of socks. The important thing is to remember to love yourself.
Soon enough, it’ll be your favorite piece of clothing.

Life is hectic and hard sometimes. But the important
thing to remember is that you can do it-even when you’re convinced you can’t.