Van Gogh’s Birthday

This day is such a beautiful day, each and every year. One of my favorite artists (second only to Da Vinci) was born on this day. He lived his life in such a way that it is remembered even today. Although not very rich, famous, or even renowned during his life, his work lives on today as invaluable.

  
   

                                                                  
(These are two of my favorite pieces of Van Gogh’s. They’re just fabulous.)

On top of that, today is World Bipolar Day. It was so chosen to be on this day BECAUSE it is Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday. You see, he was posthumously (after he was already deceased) diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which led him to commit suicide. Today, so many people are sharing their stories, promoting the end of stigmas and several hashtags, among which are #WeAreMoreThanADiagnosis and #WeAreNotAlone

                     

I’m in the middle of a couple other blogs, which are tandemly connected to this topic today about mania and depression, but I want to bring up one key point that resonates throughout. Today isn’t a day for words, it’s a day for pictures.

                                                   

                               

  
  

  

                                                 

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A Letter

Dear Senator Sanders,

         You do not know me, but I am a young Democratic voter from a very small town in Ohio. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it was named after a Polish officer who fought in our revolution. In that tiny little spot, there are no stop lights, and plenty of dirt roads. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word, or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support that I am thankful to have had.

         I’ve been privileged to have had some wonderful friends, all of whom helped me grow into the outspoken, passionate woman I am today. And part of that stems from having a deep love of people who are different from myself. I deeply enjoy looking into other cultures, ensuring that I have the best, most thorough information available, so that I can make that small town proud of the ways in which I impact my world. As an anthropology student, research into cultures and attitudes are kind of a requirement. So I took the time to do a little research on you, Mr. Sanders, and here is what I found out.

         You are a man of many skills: carpentry, film and legislation among them. You are devoted to your family, and all that you see morally astute. But do you know what I did not see, or at least, not on your website? I did not see a medical degree. And so it troubles me deeply that you went out of your way to say the following at the debate in Flint, Michigan:

“We are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to address the mental health.”

         You see, the media may have found that sound bite worthy of a chuckle, Secretary Clinton did as well, but for someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst peoples, you have let down a very large, very important community. You may have made an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider that the members of the mentally ill community may not have appreciated you including the Republican candidates into that group simply because some of the outrageous things which have come out of their mouths.

         I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But more than that, I am a member of that community that you so brazenly mocked. Some of the phrases you used last night were “lunatic”, “crazy person” and of course, the quote which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions such as those of Mr. Trump mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect. 

         So here I am, Senator Sanders, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education. Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny-it’s just plain rude.

         Thank you for your time.

Best,

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell

A Concerned Citizen

Why the Kesha Ruling Matters

This week has been one hellacious week, as far as my reaction to court cases and life in general. You could say my faith in humanity wavered for a moment in time. But I write to you today from the perspective from someone who found the passion to pull herself from the depths of a hell-like depression into a full blown fighter. I have always been a fighter and now I’ve found my purpose.

Pocahontus Compass

I can no longer sit idly by and let our society, which I have endeavored to learn about and discover seek to oppress me by legislation which forces me to conceal that which is most basic to my existence: my biological sex.

I was born a female, and that is what I will stay, as feels right for me. But for whatever reason, that has been enough to condemn me. Michelle, are you talking about yourself personally or as a generality? Well, reader, I have to say both. And I can think of no more a potent case than the one recently involving Kesha. Kesha is a pop singer signed to the Sony label. She is known for song like “Tik-Tok” and “Crazy Kids”. And earlier this past week, a judge (more specifically Justice Shirley Kornreich of the Manhattan-New York Supreme Court) ruled that Kesha would continue to be legally obligated to fulfill her contract with the man whom Kesha has accused of sexually assaulting and raping her.

Michelle, you don’t even KNOW Kesha, nor anyone even remotely close to that case. How could it POSSIBLY affect you? Well, reader, pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

—-Before I begin, I actually started this post 4 days ago, and had to stop because it emotionally drained me to the point of insanity. I would now like to finish what I started.

Womens-rights-are-human-rights

If the law says that a woman must stand by her accused rapist (or alleged assaulter, or abuser) for the sake of upholding a piece of paper, on which words are printed and names were signed, you are doing two things. First, you are saying that a contract is more important than a woman’s safety. Second, you are saying that women are not to be respected or believed if they come forward with accusations of assault, abuse or rape. You are saying that a women is expected to be grateful for the opportunities she has and that any reason she may have to want to remove herself from that opportunity is not good enough, and that maybe she shouldn’t have brought it on herself.

I was in class yesterday, and as I usually get there a couple minutes early, I found myself in a super emotional conversation about this very topic. I promise I didn’t start it, but I can proudly say I did pitch in. But because it pertains, I will record the pertinent parts.

Person A: My theater class was talking about the Steubenville rape today and Kesha got brought up. There are 4 women including myself in that class and I’ve never been so emotional in a class before.

Person B: What happened?

Person A: The men in the class all grouped up to say that Kesha should have had the wherewithal to know that she was being given date rape drugs instead of sleeping pills and that she deserved to face the consequences. Then one of the 4 women took their side and said that Kesha getting raped was like a person standing in front of a mass shooter and asking to be shot.

Now, I’m gonna stop my relay of the conversation there, because Person A and the rest of the class were getting into the problems of rape culture (some of which I will bring up in a moment) and because I made my point. Person A was physically shaking, and by the end of the conversation, more than just them was of that same response.

So when I say “rape culture” what is it that I mean? According to the Women Against Violence Against Women, here’s the backstory:

“Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.”

rapeculturegraphic

Uh-oh! Did I just say feminists? YES I DID. And the Google definition of feminism is:

Feminism: noun: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Feminists are simply people who think that all people should be equal, and have equal rights. That’s it. Not men-hating crazy people. Just equality. It says nothing about what job is “appropriate” or what fashion a person wears or beliefs or anything. Just equality. Seriously. SO MANY people use it the wrong way and have no idea what it is. Educate yourselves!

gender_balance

Anyway, back to my point.

If we as a society are telling one young woman that she cannot escape her alleged attacker, then we are telling ALL women that they are stuck in the cycles of inferiority because of the sex they were born as. We are saying that women do not have the right to feel safe, or to expect to be protected by the laws which seek to govern them. We are telling women that their voice is to be muted, so that no one is to ever pay attention to it because all women are doing is seeking attention without having anything worthwhile to say.

And yes, it IS possible for women to be awful people and just make stuff up for attention. But one bad person is NOT justification enough to punish all women and oppress their needs just as it is not justification enough to punish all of MANkind for the actions of Hitler or John Wilkes Booth.

I try to keep my blogs from being overrun by politics. My husband is the political one and in fact, I think he may eventually come around to the idea of going into politics as a career. I’ve always seen myself as the justice keeper type. But I want to also welcome discussion. I don’t want to exclude views just because they are not my own. I want to know why people think what they think.

This topic is so personal for me. Not because of who is involved, or what happened, but because I am a woman. My husband and I have decided that kids would be great-one day in the distant future. The thought of having a kid now TERRIFIES me. I’m not ready, I’m not financially stable enough, I still go to college and that’s reason enough for me.

Why am I bringing up kids in my blog about the Kesha case? Because I need you all to see the pressures on women. And part of being a woman is being pressured about your biological clock.

I had a professor who told me that my experiences were not correct because they seemed to him to be wrong. He had asked about the pressures of having children on married women. I offered my story because I thought it would help the class understand. Here’s the transcript.

Him: I don’t know. Do any of you married women feel that there is pressure on you to have children?

Me: I had people asking me if I was ready to have a kid five minutes after I got married. And some of the congratulatory Facebook posts also contained questions about it.

Him: I don’t think that happens.

Another woman came to my defense, saying that it does happen and that people also force their ideas of how many children you are supposed to have on you. But the point is, I was told that my experiences were invalid because he didn’t believe them. How am I supposed to combat that?

The CDC recently released a report about women drinking and pregnancy. If you took health class seriously, you know that alcohol and babies do not mix. It’s bad for the babies. But I personally think the CDC is taking it a little too far. Yes, I think that baby health should be at utmost priority. But I also think that if women who are of “sexually reproductive” age and not on birth control have to have their alcohol consumption monitored, then maybe so should men. After all, men are more likely to become alcoholics and if we’re really so concerned about baby health, then why would we want to be unconcerned about alcoholic dads?

The state of Ohio (in which I live) has recently passed a bill stating that abortions will not be funded unless it is necessary for health or in instances of reported rape or incest. Michelle, you just said you weren’t going to get political-what’s this? This is me showing you why Kesha matters.

So let me list this out for you.

ALL THE THINGS WRONG ABOUT THE KESHA RULING AND RAPE CULTURE IN AMERICAN SOCIETY

(The consequences spelled out for you by: a woman.)*

-Women are not to be believed in the event that they accuse someone of rape or assault because they are probably just seeking a better opportunity.

-Women are not to be believed about their experiences because they are probably lying.

-Women are not to consume alcohol because they are going to damage their unplanned children. (There is, to-date, no regulation on men though.)

-Women are not allowed to get an abortion (in several states now, not just my own) unless they have poor health, have been the victim of incest or have been the victim of a rape that they probably just want because they had the opportunity to have “consensual” sex and not worry about the consequences (and they probably lied about being raped anyway).

_________________________________________________________________

And now, you maybe see why the Kesha case is so important. It isn’t about Dr. Luke, Kesha or even Sony. It isn’t about Hollywood’s biases, intolerance, injustice (well, it kinda is) or anything like that. It is about the implications of a ruling based on sexism and oppression in a land where being a woman is already treated like a bad thing. I’ll be graduating Spring 2017 with a degree in Anthropology and then in 2020 with a degree in law. And I’m aiming for the laws which limit women’s rights. That will be my legacy.

female-power-anyn-rand.jpg*This explanation does NOT reflect my personal beliefs. I believe that the scenario I have explained is how the facts are being interpreted. I believe that ALL accusations of rape and assault should be looked into with respect and integrity, and am looking into a career in rape prosecution. The explanation I give is NOT how I believe the world should work and is in fact, just the opposite of how I want society to  be.

The Girl on Fire

                                                         

I’ve blogged about being a 20-something probably more times than you all care to read. I’ve done nostalgia posts, issues facing 20-somethings, thoughts from, thoughts for, poetry, you name it. I’ve done as many perspectives and ideas as I can probably muster on a good day and I think probably some more on top of that. but today, today is a day of awakening. Today is the day of heart unrest that had me up all night, fuming, crying, filled with super-heroine leveled frustration. Seriously, had I had just an ounce more caffeine I may have turned into the curvy, sassy half-sister of Elektra. But all comics aside, I have both a blog about me and a blog about life for today. I need to do a brain purge and today just seems to be the day to do it, so here goes. It’s probably going to be verbose, it may be a little biased and it most definitely will be emotionally charged and opinionated. That is my waiver statement and you all have been alerted as such.

I’m a teller of stories. Each time I go to write something, say something, think about something, it is always a story. I try to look at all the sides of an issue, even if I’m vehemently against it, for the sake of the story. I want to know the truth. That’s what’s supposed to set us free, right?

           

This past week I’ve looked at more SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) cases and political blogs, news stories and social media commentaries about social issues than I probably ever have. It started out as a paper assignment for one of my classes and turned into a passion fueled quest. But as it would turn out, the thing I love is also the thing I hate. You see, the more stories I read, or cases I analyzed (depending on the moment), the more I found that moment where I knew this was something I was passionate enough about to make into a career. But then after a couple hours of stewing, it was those same things that made me sickeningly depressed. I’ve never experienced something like that. And so, I found myself in the loop of highs and lows that although is not unfamiliar to me, was altogether too much.

It went on like this for about a week, as I said, spending my days in class and reading the things then coming home, doing more homework and letting the issues sit on the back burner. Then I would spend the nights crying, because my heart was so heavy with the injustices that I saw that day. My husband, who is well-accustomed to my emotional outbursts was the greatest of help (no sarcasm!) and I woke each day with a renewed vengeance to attack these case reviews and articles and such with fervor. The cycle just repeated itself. By Sunday (yesterday), I found myself in such a great need for a restoration of my faith in humanity that I decided to watch A Walk to Remember. Little did I know that a.0 my faith would not be restored by that movie alone and b.) I was going to spend the night awake and crying and telling my husband about how much the world hurts my heart. I think I’ve gotten such crappy sleep this past week that I’m running on fumes and that’s literally forcing me to remain in this depression cycle.

So. I want to discuss some of the things here that I did with my husband yesterday/last night.

1. I want to be a diplomat, but I sometimes feel like it’s a lost cause. How can I seek to help people if I cannot even help myself? A: By knowing myself, I will be able to help myself and therefore help the other people.

2. How can I be a diplomat from the “greatest country ever” if we’re so oppressive here? And although we are not the MOST oppressive, how can we be the best if we aren’t the best, you know? A: By making “here” live up to its potential.

3. Why have we come so far only to move backwards? We are oppressing college students with debt, women, different ethnicities, different beliefs, different lifestyles. Don’t believe me? Look at the Ke$ha case, the case in Georgia about LGBT discrimination, the social media stories about Muslim discrimination, the way police officers are treated nationally, look at my post about college debt. And don’t get me started on the Flint, Michigan issue. A: Because people don’t understand the full effect of their decisions. That’s what I can help.

4. If I’ve been doing this research for a week, and am depressed about it, how can I expect to do it for the next 40 or 50 years? A: See below.

                                                        

And really, I’m going to stop it there because the questions just unravel in a fit of hysteria. And no, dear readers, I don’t think you need to answer these questions, but I’d be more than willing to hear your thoughts. I supplied some answers, but they’re obviously shallow ones. As I’m sure you can guess, I’m spending so much time thinking about these questions that homework is starting to bleed through and I’ve become incredibly opinionated about all that is going on. I’m taking some politically based classes this semester (thus the assignment and the bleed through) but you know, I never expected that I would become emotionally invested.

And I guess that’s where I will leave for today. I’ve always viewed my emotions and attachment to ideas as a negative aspect of myself. Like that was my big flaw, the thing that could be the very ruination of all I’ve worked so hard for. I have done my best to hide my emotions, treating them as a part of myself that had to be tamed, that I should be embarrassed about. And yet, it is that very thing about me that is pulling me in two very different directions. I am both very concerned for my emotional health doing this job, living this life. But. I am also incredibly excited, incredibly passionate about this subject and I think that’s the one thing that will force me out of bed each morning, striving to make the world I live in a place I can be proud of, where justice prevails and human rights are universal. 

  

Why Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

I don’t know about you, but I look through Pinterest and there are days when I get so revved up about what I see that I have to stop looking at it for a few hours, or I’ll keep going back to it and get all worked up. Especially when I look at the feminism stuff or mental illness pins. And I am very much for both of those sections. But you know as well as I do that any old fool can post things without having an inkling of knowledge to back up those words. And it is that ignorance that gets to me. So, let’s jump in the time machine and I will tell you all about why.

I’m a proud Pinterst fanatic. I have over 20 thousand pins. It’s taken LARGE amounts of my time to get that far, but I consider it an invaluable resource to my life. For those of you (are there any?) who don’t know what Pinterest is, it’s kind of like a networking site for ideas. You “Pin” ideas to a “board” and save recipes, DIY projects and so many things. But it can also be used for keeping ideas together. I belong to both camps. Today, I’m going to focus on how social media (specifically Pinterest) perpetuates incorrect information about mental illnesses and disorders: namely EDs (Eating Disorders).

I doubt there are in here, but I know how this works, so just in case.

***TRIGGER WARNING*** Some symptoms, stories and elements may cause flare ups of conditions. The author does not condone or suggest any actions which may cause bodily harm.

I know that if you go into Pinterest and type in “Eating Disorders” into the search bar, you will most likely get a different result list than I will. So I’m going to do this the only way I know how: screen shots! I will caption them with WHAT I want you to pay attention to and then WHY it’s important to today’s blog. This is going to be a personal one today, and I hope that means it helps more than I rant.

  
First off, I like this. I mean, I’m not really sure why I couldn’t immediately connect to Pinterest, but I’m ultimately glad I didn’t. And it goes to show, that the moment I try to prove my point, something inevitably happens that changes my mind. Sort of. So thank you, Pinterest for being on the ball. I appreciate that.

  
 
I want you to look at the top left “hand” picture AND the one right beside it. Those two pictures I am calling into question because although you cannot sum ANY disorder up into a single picture, these only scratch the surface. ALL of these pictures do. The focus is on being skinny. But this screen shot shows my point as well. Looks can be deceiving. And the truth is, you really may not ever know who you are until you break away all of the pieces you thought you were made of.

  
 
This time, focus on the gentleman , and the woman at opposite corners. The great thing is that it highlights men having EDs too; a topic we need to focus on more! The problem with the gentleman’s picture is the same as above: it focuses on the skinny issue. And granted you could argue that that is the “basis” of eating disorders, but I would argue it is merely a facet of some of them. The problem I have with the second one actually requires more than a caption so I’ll bump down a paragraph.

Yes you do. You absolutely do decide one day that that is the course of action you are going to take. It may be subtle, like backing off, extreme dieting or eating less and less. It may be abrupt and one day you just stop eating solids, or anything at all. But you DO decide it. And it basically happens in a day. You just can’t take the pressure or the shame or the guilt and you decide you’re going to do something about it.

I was 14 when I first started dabbling with EDs. Almost a decade later, I’m not sure I’m any better.

The first thing I tried was Bulimia. I can make myself purge on demand and I enjoyed the taste of food so I thought: At least I can still taste the things I love. But the thing is, I HATE puking. I really do. And no matter how much I convinced myself that it would help, I dreaded each meal for the sole reason that I would have to throw it up. I maybe lasted in this phase a grand total of 2 weeks. Any extraneous symptoms were not entirely present. (Or had been present BEFORE onset.)

  

So I moved to Anorexia. By the “height” of my time in this disorder, I was only eating an apple a day and that is why I became a caffeine addict. I fought so hard to stay awake every day. And since I have many years worth of experience in this disorder, let me tell you some things.

  

First. While the motivation to be skinny is a big draw into this disorder, it isn’t the thing that keeps you there. You become trapped, like you cannot stop. You feel like it’s your life now and that is all there will ever be. And did I mind that my collar bone stuck out, that my ribs were exceptionally visible? I lived for those signs that I was making progress. But those are the “sexy” side effects. I’m here to tell you about the not-so-sexy ones.

I began to pass out. Sometimes at home, sometimes at school, always without knowing it. It was kind of like narcolepsy-it just happened. And on top of the literal black outs, I began to loose whole chunks of time. There are, even still, very large portions of my memory that are not clear because I didn’t feed my brain enough to make them last. On top of that, I have little hairs all around, which were not there before. You wouldn’t know it, because I take care of it, but even now, they remain. And the hair on my head falls out in great clumps, just as it did before. I missed menstrual cycles-sometimes for 6 months or more. Not because I was pregnant, but because my body couldn’t succeed in normal functions. My fingernails would constantly chip and break, but the worst thing was how weak I felt. I felt slow, my head felt too big, it was like being stuck in extreme gravity for months on end.

And the thing is, no one even noticed. I wore baggy clothes, bundled up, and tried to hide from everyone. This photo was taken of my in my junior year, I believe. I was trying to catch up on some caffeine, clearly. (I said I was a caffeine addict. And I remember this. It was during prom planning, when I had to try hardest to fit in.) The shirt I was in was a medium. 

  

I was 5 foot 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall at that point, as I am still,  and “look healthy”. But what you can’t see are the constant struggles with food, the endless exercises,  the constant state of pain. All you can see is laughter. A facade.  The me that I outwardly projected. Which is exactly what my primary care physician saw when I went in with the complaint of forgetting chunks of time and passing out. She told me that it was all menstruation related and that I needed to “focus harder”. She could have inadvertently killed me with those words, but luckily I saw a psychiatrist soon after.

And now?

That’s what everyone wants, right?  The triumphant “I survived. And now I’m better. ” story. But I don’t think that’s the story I have for you.  Not today.

I currently fall into the “obese” category of the BMI chart. And does that bother me? A lot. I stay so far away from the starvation diet that I jumped right into the other band wagon. 

  
Puts an interesting spin on things, doesn’t it? Like a big fat slap in the face. I didn’t even know there was a name for what I was doing to myself. And the thing is: I’m not so different than I was before. I spend a day eating whatever I want followed by a day of not really eating, or by a week of heavy dieting. And the people who know me know that I diet a LOT. We’re talking everything shy of weight loss pills. And the cycle repeats. And I’m almost afraid to call it what it is, because I still can’t decide if it’s a lack of willpower, self control or if it’s just lazy, “emotional” eating. With Bulimia and Anorexia, I could relate to 90% of the psychiatrist’s symptom list, but only about 80% of the list I supplied. (More with AN than B.) But I can check off every single symptom up there for BED) and if that’s not saying something, I’ll tell you what is.

I’ve had some variety of ED for HALF MY LIFE (almost-we’re short by 2 years). My hair, even though it is thick (as we discussed a couple posts ago) falls out in large clumps. My nails break often (but I try to compensate with the vitamins I take). My body still has little hairs from being anorexic, I feel sluggish and exhausted a LOT, and I cannot say that I enjoy these decisions. By being anorexic, I ruined my body. I broke who I was as a person and watched the pieces slip away. But with B.E.D., I’ve hidden any growth behind a wall of food, shame and pain trying to avoid crushing my soul into oblivion (all while sabotaging it instead). 

So all in all, what I have to say can be boiled down into two parts. First, the Pinterest issue. Not all EDs are about being skinny. I didn’t even touch on orthorexia. Not all EDs are publicized, but ALL of them need to be taken seriously.

And second, I make a public promise to myself, that I will never stop fighting for people who need it, even if they do not look like anything is wrong. Because for years the only thing people were concerned about was the physical harm I was inflicting on myself, and noone even saw the neglect and torture behind it.

So although this isn’t an update for you all, I’ve been working on this post for over three weeks, and I want everyone to know that I am getting help I don’t know the future, but I have to take back control.

The Day I Was Honest

I’ve held onto this post, mostly becuase I couldn’t give it all it deserved. I had to be in the right frame of mind. I’m not entirely sure it’s today, but I think I’ve got a good grip on what I want to say and I think it’s a lovely way to open the new calendar year.
Last semester (and thusly last year) I had a lot going on, as we’ve discussed. I had just transferred to the big city, made new friends, was working on establishing myself in the ways of the world. And I began to blog seriously. I watched this video today of an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, which I absolutely loved and the idea came bubbling up in the back of my head. That’s why I’ve decided to blog on it today.

In the interview, she was talking about how to balance your life. That’s something I really struggle with. I live too much in the future and not enough in the now. I think about how to fix the problems I may encounter and not so much on how to prevent them. So when she said “focus on yourself. Do what makes you happy.”I really felt like we were approaching a revalation. Her argument was that if you do not find a way to keep yourself in balance, to take care of yourself, you will look to others to do so. You will blame them for sacrificing your entire life for them and not getting happiness out of it. And it blew my mind (metaphorically, of course). 

Now that you’ve had some background info, on to the actual point.

Last semester is by far and away not the first time I’ve had to take sick days. I’ve had bronchitis, strep, the stomach flu and a host of colds throughout my life. But I don’t skip irresponsibly. I take pride in my ability to attend school and work with punctuality and integrity. But last semester was the first time I was honest with myself. As I was crafting my email to my professors for the day, I began to reason out what my excuse for missing class was. Was I suffering from a 24 hour bug? Had I awoken with a flat tire or a low battery? Had I merely slept in? And I realized that I needed to stop kidding myself and respect myself as much as I respected the professors.

 

 

Good morning!

I will not be in class today. I need to take a mental health day and will return to class tomorrow. Thank you for your understanding.

Best,

Michelle BB.

For the first time in my entire life, I used that excuse. I’ve always been ashamed to, like it was some sort of cop-out excuse for being lazy. But it isn’t. And in fact, when I returned the next day, my professors went out of their way to make sure I was alright. Two of them even stopped by the office where I work and made it a point to see if I needed anything. They didn’t see me as a lazy, incompetent student. They saw me as an individual who responsibly needed a day to regroup.

  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at their reactions. Mental health has been quite a large topic lately, and I was taking a bunch of anthropology classes, so they all understand the value of psychobiological health. And as I said, I do not skip irresponsibly. There is always a reason-a real reason. But it got me thinking. How can I stand here (or sit) and tell you all that we need to take steps to mental health help and then be ashamed of the fact that I have to use that reason myself? Why was I ashamed in the first place?

Because it still carries the connotations. I don’t want anyone to see me as weak, unbalanced, incapable. I fight hard for people to see the bright, driven, passionate individual that I am. But I guess I got caught up in being a super heroine, without flaw or needs. And I viewed my own mental health as something along the lines of an excuse to be used as a cover up for the fact that I didn’t have the motivation to do something. That isn’t even the case. But I’m glad I learned that. Because mental health isn’t separate from physical health. It’s a facet of the same diamond. I was scared that my professors would use that against me in the future. But all that happened was me finally letting go of the fear and replacing it with the statement “I have to take care of myself-holistically.” And once I did that, I think I managed to do just that.

  So thank you, Jada Pinkett Smith, for reminding me that I do indeed need to find my balance and stop sacrificing myself away. No one else is responsible for my happiness and health.

Collide

The title to this blog is the song, but as you’ll see, it also represents something else to me. Today, I want to try to describe a scenario which to me, is the singular reason why I can’t seem to get a grip this past year. I know that being prone to moods and their sways is also not helpful, but I can think of no other thing which makes me feel like a shitty person, friend and individual. I don’t need sympathies, but I hope that my words help someone. And if not, they at least help me.

Fear.

When I was younger I had a dream. Like one of those really vivid nightmare type dreams where you’re positive that it will come true. It was me driving a little car down a road in Columbus, passing under a bridge and getting into an accident. That accident (in the dream) caused me to die. I even remember looking at the black lamp post where blood had splattered. THAT kind of vivid. It’s stuck with me as a weird gut feeling ever since.

Going on a couple years ago now, my husband and I were in a pretty hellacious car accident. We were totally fine, but the car was not. In fact, had the horse (yes, we hit a horse) been any heavier, I would have eaten some very serious amounts of windshield. It ended up that the windshield was an inch away from my face. The horse, for all you animal people, was entirely fine. He got up immediately and ran off. Later the owner found him and got vet treatment immediately, or so he told me. I was in the passenger seat. It shook me a little, but for the most part I was entirely okay.

Fast forward a couple years and a couple cars and I now live in Columbus. I drove all my stuff up here when we moved, I drove back from the grocery store once and I drove to school (but not back) and other than that I have not driven at all. I’ve been here for almost 6 months. Why? I live so close to so many wonderful things that I could literally go anywhere I please and be amazed at the fabulous scenes and sounds. But instead, I stay home or catch rides with someone else (namely my husband). He doesn’t seem to mind, but there are moments when I know it bothers him. 

The reason I’m even writing about this is because well, really two things. The first being that I need to acknowledge that it holds me back. The second is that I want everyone to know that I’m not being a bad friend, or a bad family member, I have a real problem and I’m really just not handling it very well. So I want to describe to you the process of getting from my house to anywhere.

I have a good luck charm, which always goes into the right hand front pocket of my jeans. If I’m dressing up, it goes into another pocket on the same side. It’s full of herbs and charms and crystals which are supposed to bring safety and observation skills. I then put on my best face, grab my stuff and head to the car. By that point, I already have an upset stomach, my head hurts and I fell like I’m going to throw up. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I. GET. INTO. A VEHICLE. And that can be quite often if it’s during the school week. So we pull out of the drive and I’m already feeling sick. I look down at my phone while my husband drives and check the news or Facebook or anything I can to keep me occupied. It doesn’t last for long though, because soon enough we’re on the highway and that’s when phase two of my passenger ritual begins.

I have a little chant that I say while clasping my hands together between my knees. It goes a little something like this:

We shall not break down, crash or die today

Not no how, not no way.

And I say that probably for a good 15 minutes solid. Even longer if the traffic is bad, which it usually is. I do this because I’ve developed a nasty habit of pointing at brake lights, gasping a braking cars and saying my husband’s name when people merge into our lane. He put up with it for a while, but my fears were (and usually are) unfounded and he thought I felt that he was a bad driver. I don’t feel like that at all. I’m just literally terrified of being on the road. So I try my hardest to remain quiet in the mornings for our commute, finally starting to open up when we make it to the school. 

In the afternoon, I try a different approach. I say my little rhyme once or twice, usually just at the ramps and then I try to talk to him about what happened that day. But I think even he notices that I don’t look out the front window. And in fact, that is a constant no matter when we drive. I look out the passenger window if I look out them at all. Because each car is one that might hunt us down, cause us to swerve off the road or mangle us up horribly.

The one time my husband needed me to come to the school to pick him up, I nearly threw up in the car. I even took the back way, so determined was I to avoid the main roads and high ways altogether. My hands were shaking so badly that it really might have looked more like a person coming out of rehab than someone who was simply driving. And I thought to myself, maybe this is the worst feeling in the world.

But it isn’t. The worst feeling in the world is being trapped by your fears. I have to make a trip by myself in a couple days and it turns my stomach just thinking about it. I’ve tried meditation, I’ve tried convincing myself that I’ll be okay. I’ve even tried to force myself to suck it up and drive anyway. But in the end, there’s no success. I literally just sit in fear and wait for the next time I’m going to have to suffer through these feelings. We go back to school in just a short little while and I’d really hoped that this would be the semester that I could share the drive with my husband instead of cowering in the passenger seat. But I think it might be the semester I convince myself what a shitty person I am because I don’t know how to be a functional adult and therefore no one will ever hire me and I will die alone and poor. Literally that is how this thought process goes. There is no logic in fear, there is just an overwhelming, all encompassing feeling of inability and failure. But I didn’t even have these fears while I lived in the old place. So why am I so afraid?

I’ve always been afraid of change. I can outwardly speak about accepting change and change making you a better person, but inside I fight against it with all my might and I frequently cry about how hard it is. Any change is like that scene in one of the Chronicles of Narnia books (Voyage of the Dawn Treader, maybe?) where Aslan is de-scaling Eustace. That’s how it is for me. I’m putting off graduation because I’m afraid to move to somewhere new. I was a nervous wreck when it came to living in this apartment for the first few weeks because it was new.

  And you know what? All I’ve wanted to do my entire life can be summed up in two things: I want to help people and I want to travel.

Seriously. I can barely walk by myself alone on campus without being afraid. I can’t even drive myself around because I am afraid. And I want to see the world and meet new people? Who am I kidding?

But that’s the thing. When Eustace got his scales ripped off, he because a better person. He was in pain, he was scared but he was better. And I guess that’s what’s important. It’s not entirely okay to be afraid. But only in the capacity that you be blocked from your destiny by your fears. So this year, for my New Year’s Resolution, I feel like it is very simple.

I want to drive myself places.

And you can laugh all you want, but when was the last time you took on your greatest fear?