These Days Are Ours

Hey all! I’m in the process of moving and as I’m sure you can all relate to-that means I’m busy, a bit frazzled and somewhat lost in time. Today’s thoughts aren’t a lecture per se, nor are they really anything more than just my thoughts. But they’re good’uns and it’s about one of my favorite topics: self-care!

I came across a note I’d saved in my phone and was blown away by my younger self. The date on it was 27 June 2015 and it reads like this:

I’m glad I’m heavier than who I was. It teaches me to be better: to redefine myself every day. I’m glad I threw out that damn dress, because it teaches me that I don’t need to be blonde to be beautiful. I’m glad I change my mind every time I change my mood. It teaches me to be flexible. I’m glad I’m not the girl I used to be. It teaches me that all things change and I must learn to adapt. I don’t have to have everything in the world. I just need to be me. I know some days I’m going to be so depressed I can barely move (and maybe a lot of those days) and some days I will stay awake for hours and be manic (and maybe I’ll be super productive). But I’ve been looking for reasons why I can’t improve my life. I stress about money, I stress about life. So now, I have some things that are going to happen.

I go on to list about a dozen things which I wanted to accomplish in the upcoming year. I managed to get about a third accomplished. But I’m not here to talk about the list.

I could not possibly have known all of the changes which were coming to me this past year. But it coincides with an event that happened yesterday and I thought that it was pretty nifty serendipity.

I send all my packages to my parents’ place because that is the only place that mail is reliable. And I hadn’t picked up my mail since about Christmas. I got my mail yesterday and opened it. I had a bunch of clothes I’d ordered, but hadn’t needed immediately.

I fall into the trap of thinking that I can wait for things. I delay so long that I usually talk myself out of the purchases with sentences like “Oh, well, now it’s not on sale.” or “I’ll buy it when I lose fifteen pounds.” And I neglect myself. I tell myself that I don’t need to buy clothes because the ones I have are still functional. I use my electronics until they can no longer function at all. And I’m proud of that. I feel that I am incredibly thrifty.

But I splurge on other people. I delight in being the one who looks completely together, completely giving. People from my first job can attest that if I had the ability, I would drive from my house to the nearest Starbucks (a 35 minute drive) at 6AM to pick everyone up a drink. And I love looking at people who receive my birthday presents. I love it all. I crave those moments.

But I deny them to myself.

Why would I do that? Why would I abuse myself and neglect myself when I put so much value in others?

The long and short answer? I’m still learning how to love myself.

I know that’s a story that a lot of people can relate to. It’s not something that our society values. The line between self-care and narcissism is muddled. Self-care is preached to people with medical conditions, to nursing students, to a variety of people. But it is often the people who are doing the preaching who lack the ability to fulfill their words in their own lives.

That’s so sad.

As I’m going through my stuff, in order to pack it up or recycle it in some way, I realized I was holding on to a lot of baggage with my possessions. I have a great giant pile of “If i lose X amount of weight, I can wear this.” I have a stack of “If these conditions are met, I’ll use this.” and the occasional “I don’t want to get rid of this because I got it from blah.” But all that translates to one basic thing: I’m holding on to this because I’m not happy enough to let it go. My husband can attest-since coming to that realization, I bagged up 6 bags of stuff and got rid of it. Clothes that were too small, too big, too old. Knick knacks that I’d held on to for the sake of holding on to are gone.

Sometimes loving yourself means giving yourself the same luxuries you give other people. Sometimes loving yourself means cutting yourself loose from unnecessary burdens.

Just a thought for today. See you all soon!

 

A Delight

Yesterday was the last day of classes (unofficially) for me. I still have finals and I have work, but it is the last time that I will need to bring a pen and paper with the express purpose of taking notes. And that serves as more than enough reason to reflect. Reflection is something I do quite a bit, but since it’s the end of something and the beginning of something else, I think it’s worth it.

August 2015: Moved to the big city. Started college at the big campus. Was entirely overwhelmed and became a recluse, having frequent panic attacks and long periods of depression.

September 2015: Began looking for a job. Driving was non occurent. Stayed home as often as I could. Panic attacks frequent in car.

October 2015: Admitted I needed a mental health day for the first time. Anxiety levels still high.

November 2015: Found job. Made an effort to sit in car longer. Began more attentively budgeting.

December 2015:  Made resolution to drive more. Began working on deciding what I wanted to do with my life.

January 2016: Went to job and class, drove to the store only-with husband.

February 2016: Began to discover women’s issues as field of interest. Took LSAT for law school.

March 2016: Convinced women’s issues are “my thing” and received LSAT scores. Began looking at law schools.

April 2016: Drove self to school each day, narrowed down schools, began Operation: Educate Everybody

May: I guess we’re about to find out.

This summer will be hectic. And I will love every minute of it. I’m planning to get some serious balls rolling, including a new and improved list of resources, which will be just bursting with information for everyone. I’m very excited about it. This summer I will be working my absolute hardest to do something I haven’t before: acted on a passion. And it took more growth than I knew it would to get here. Now that I have roots, it’s time to rise and shine.

Step one of O:EE complete. Now on to phase two.

The Start to a Great Day

This past week was a brutal week for human beings. Earthquakes, bigotry, hatred, fear and on my own campus there was a display of some very xenophobic graffiti. But there were also some wonderful things which happened. The grafiti was covered over by messages of acceptance and love. The bigotry and hatred was combatted with hope and kindness. Aid was given to those who needed it.

Yesterday was one of those weird days when I missed something from my old life: routine. Not the kind that I’d expected, but I missed having songs to sing to my deity. I had seen a video of someone singing “It Is Well With My Soul” and vividly recalled all the times I spent in church singing that song (and playing it on the piano) and then all the times I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to go to church, I didn’t even want to sing the song. I wanted to revisit a time when there was a routine in my life that made everything seem simple. That is the way it is because is is that way. You know?

It was a weird feeling, but I think the point of it wasn’t that I found a hole in my belief system, it was that in those days, everything was simple (for me at least). I lived in a small town of people I knew and who knew me. I could walk all over the county by myself without fear. I could stop by people’s houses if I needed to call my parents or get a drink or hang out with people roughly my age. I missed the simplicity.

And yet, there are things I would not change about today. I braided my hair for the first time successfully all by myself. I got up on time, I dressed up today (I’m channeling my inner Snow White-red lips, blue top, yellow skirt) and I even managed to get rid a bunch of homework done. I didn’t panic when my husband drove us in this morning, even though I’ve grown accustomed to driving by myself. I got in to work early and successfully set up for the day. I’m a stronger, more independent person than I was six months ago. And what’s more, I accept myself for who I am more so than I did when I moved here. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t love to be a little different, but it means that I am not ashamed of who I am now.

  We are all products of our pasts. For me, that past means walking barefoot through grassy fields on the way to a raspberry patch to get my fingers completely covered in red dye. It means traveling downs dirt roads covered in arching trees and watching baby rabbits run across your yard right before a huge buck comes sniffing for roots and tulips. It’s picking apples off the trees while waiting for the bus to take me to school and bonfires with burnt marshmallows (which my parents had to eat). It’s dressing up on Sunday’s because that’s what respectable people did and then going home to pick garden produce.

  And we choose what becomes our future. Coffee dates with friends, and making time for people. It’s proving to yourself over and over again that you’re not the mistake you thought you were. It means taking the time to capture life’s little moments, watching a sunrise even when you’d rather be sleeping, making the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten and then being surprised that it tasted that good.  

  It means choosing to feel good about yourself and “I’ll be damned if I let other people shame me out of my own life”. It means giving up every reason you have for not being happy and just taking chances anyway-because you’ve finally decided that it’s in your best interest to believe in yourself.

  At the end of the day, we’re not always going to listen to the naysayers. And doing so will only hold us back. We’ve got to start living with love and passion, or else we don’t stand a chance of living at all.

(All photos today were taken by me and as you can see, are on my Instagram. Ya’ll can hop on over and browse about if you feel so inclined, but this is basically what I take pictures of. Only now it’s my dog and campus, but hey.)

Coffee Cups, Confusion and Compassion

Today’s title seems more like the one I would give my autobiography. (Which is actually a great idea-so if I ever write one, you’ll know what to look for!) Anyway, a little more seriously. Today was served by a healthy dose of the aforementioned things. I don’t necessarily know where today’s blog is headed, but I know I need to write it out. It’s gonna be an adventure for both of us, I guess.

I grabbed my coffee cup this morning, the sleep still clinging to me, unwilling to let go. It felt like a stay-in-bed-and-watch-movies-all-day kind of day. But I drank my coffee anyway and got to work. I’ve spent more or less the past two months being frustrated, confused, brokenhearted, angry, and a whole host of other things. I’ve spent a great long while in depression, I pulled into hypo, I’ve been swamped with homework, stress and just when I think it’s never going to change, I find myself at today. It’s a day filled with more necessary-to-do things.

I told myself when the school year started back in August that I was going to be a new person. I would be stronger, be better, be basically everything that I believed I wasn’t. And now, with a little less than a month to go until the end of the term, I have to take a moment to reflect. Am I any different?

On the one hand, I’ve only lost 14 pounds since August. But I no longer binge-eat. I am more educated buy a year. But I feel that I am nowhere near as educated as I need to be. I’m better at budgeting, and I haven’t paid bills late once. But I stress out more, and most of it is money related. I drink more water. But I still drink soda. I know myself more. But I’m still conflicted about who I am.

In just the past eight months, I have discovered my passion in life, my niche, my calling. I have felt more conflicted about it than I think I believed I could. I have found the worst emotions possible, so much so that they tasted like bile in my mouth at the mere thought. But I have also found great motivation to change those feelings into something that could make the world beautiful. I have faced adversity and smiled through it. I have faced my dragons and tamed them. I have made excellent coffee and shared it with friends.I have remembered things I would rather have left forgotten, struggled with my mind and come out the victor.

I set out in August with one goal: to get through the year. I had to learn how to adapt, to assimilate. I have never felt so alone in my life. But by December, my goals changed. I had to become stronger-a better version of me. And these past two weeks found me driving myself into (and back from) class THREE times a week. I went from being secluded in my own home to gaining great ground in just three months. But the journey is not ended. Because soon enough I shall be off to some distant land where everyone is a stranger and I know nothing.

It is that understanding that brings me to the last part of the title. You see, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own issues, your own pain that you forget there are other people suffering too. I have changed a fair amount over the past year, but there is one thing that I can quantifiably say has changed for the better: I care more.

Let me be clear here: I do not care haphazardly. I do not let myself take on the pain of others. But I am learning to walk the line between compassion and empathy. I used to make other people’s struggles my own. I would break for them as though I were them. And now, I feel for them, but I do so from my own standpoint. And that’s important.

Every Word’s The Same

I have to say

There seems to be a miscommunication

I thought secrets were for the living

But the only secrets are kept in death

If every second lasted just a second longer

Maybe the trust I thought I deserved 

Would shatter before my eyes

Instead of behind my back

My shoulder blades itch, 

Could you move the knife up and to the left?

Or should I just fall on my face

The beauty of the fall is my disgrace

Is that your heartbeat

Or is it just the echo of a chest that’s hollow

Because you’ve been a tin man your whole life

And I guess that makes me the one without courage.

It takes a tribe to raise a kid, but 

Maybe it was a village of idiots.

You thought you were so clever, so sweet

That I could save you from your own disasters 

You should have looked for a parachute

Because this plane’s about to go down.

I never thought it’d come down to this

A thief and a liar, oh but the twist,

We are the same, you and I

Connected by the handcuffed scars on our wrist.

  (Photo from Pinterest!) 

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

Years ago I had an art teacher tell me that I was no good at drawing, or coloring, or creativity. Those concepts carried into my time as a high schooler, making me avoid art class with a passion. I chose instead, to put all of my efforts into music-where I learned to play various instruments with adequate skill and sang my  heart out in groups and solo. It is the story of my music education that I will hold onto for another day. When I found myself in a visual art class one year, I went to the teacher and explained that “I sucked”. It wasn’t because I had been certified as an individual without artistic powers or that I wanted mercy in the expectations, but because someone had told the impressionable child-me that I was no good and I carried that with me as my own truth. My high school art teacher told me that I didn’t suck and kept after me to keep trying. When my first entry on a larger project was complimented by TWO art teachers, I was confused.

I thought I sucked.

And yet here I am, a number of years later still and I find both coloring and drawing to be comforting. My skills are unpolished and although I find it relaxing, I would not say I am an artist. If you ever wondered what a difference havig art in classrooms can make, please use this story. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I have the utmost respect for teachers with passion, use this story. And when you combine the two, you’ll understand why this is one of the life-defining moments in my life.

I struggle daily with how to define myself. The labels which have been handed to me do not present a complete picture, and there are not words for the other parts of me. As I explored this, I realized that I am in a transient state, changing, moving and shaping myself constantly. I have no labels, because I do not need them. I am an unfinished work of art, still being planned out by an artist who hasn’t decided where this project will go.

I look back on that moment in high school when I struggled with my identity. Perhaps it’s just high school, perhaps I was different. I didn’t know that by breaking down the walls of my childhood-the misconceptions that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth investing time in-I would be doing the best thing for myself.

It has been 8 years since I stepped foot inside the high school I would graduate from. I was a junior when I took the art class that convinced me I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful. 

I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful.

So here I am, almost a decade after I began my transformation into the adult I will become. I haven’t finished changing, and in fact, I imagine I will be someone new before I finish. But the thing is, those words stuck with me. The teacher I had in high school is both someone whom I admire deeply and a source of great inspiration to me. She pushes me still to see the world in a different way than may be easy, or colorless. And so one of the things I’ve been working on this semester is exploring that change. What I came up with I’ve been putting into writing, becoming more assertive in what I need to say. What I don’t show people often is that I also put my messages into drawings. Sometimes they are tattoo sketches far too big and detailed to be reasonably priced, sometimes they are metaphorical and drawn in an utmost surreal context. But then there’s this piece.

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

  I so named it that because I wanted to show how my change is both reflective of who I am now, and the product of who I was. I’d like to take a moment and explain what I feel the message is. You don’t have to like it, just consider it.

The basic content is: a waterfall, a phoenix and two sets of hands. That much, I gather you could figure out for yourself. The next layer are the words in the background: Transform, Brave, Love, Acceptance, Beautiful, Hope, Life, Forgiveness, Growth. There is the color scheme to consider, the level of detail (and shading) in the hands, the size of the hands and the “decoration” of the hands, as well as the way the background is set up. 

The nine words are the ones I had to learn the hard way. They are reflective of self, things that were not always easy for me to fully grasp.

The background grows darker, more assertive as it approaches the bigger hands, more concrete. The waterfall is closer to the small hands. The left side of the picture in general is lighter, less defined, more washed out. 

And the hands themselves. On the left, you have a child’s hands. They are reaching out for help, open and expressive. The nails are painted black, and the waterfall is suggestive of losing oneself, “going off the deep end” and trying to “keep my head above the water”. The hands themselves are lightly shaded, as though the owner is becoming invisible. And yet there are bright red marks on the arms-dashes, hope and love. I can promise you that this isn’t a shock-and awe piece, but a true to life representation of the way my arms looked spring of my freshman year. I don’t talk about it often, it isn’t a story too many people know, but now they will. Those two words were the things I wanted most out of life-hope of a better life and love that would heal all wounds. And yes, I really did cut them into my arms with diamond Os and the Es facing vein length. It is honest and brutal.

On the right, there is the me that I am now. older, stronger hands with imperfections (like crooked fingers) reaching out to the younger me, the me that is representative of the 2-3 million people who engage in self harm each year. The right side reaches out, without judgement, offering safety and hope and love to those without. The nails are blue and a silver wedding band is there. But if you look closely, the scars are still there, silent reminders that what was done cannot be undone, but can make you stronger. 

In the end, it was never about being right or being wrong. It was always about being the person who broke free from their shell to embrace something new. I may not be perfect, but I made something beautiful: a new life. And that is the true evolution. Like a phoenix, I took my failures and created brilliance. I cannot wait to see what comes next.

You Got Me There

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Today is the day that I come out of my shell once more, and tell you all about a subject that I believe needs more sincere attention. It is National Bipolar Awareness Day. I have some helpful infographics here for you all, and I think that Ineed to be the change I want to see in the world, so I’m going to discuss why YOU and I and EVERYONE needs to start talking about mental health.

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5.7 million Americans. “There are 321,271,372 people in the United States of America.” according to howmanyofme.com and that means that there are roughly 2% of Americans (1.77%) living with this disease. Comparatively, there are  10 times as many people who simply live with some mental illness diagnosis. Since this day is dedicated to Bipolar Disorder, I will focus thusly. (These numbers all change depending on where your sources are and who actually did the research, so keep that in mind. These are “low” estimates.)

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So what IS Bipolar Disorder?

I can promise you that it is NOT a crutch. People who live with this disorder are not seeking attention because they have very little else to do-it is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

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Sound like fun, right?

It isn’t. There are moments when you feel like you are invincible. You can go for days, live life freely. And then comes the crash-the moment when life isn’t your oyster, it’s your cage and you’re running out of oxygen. And there’s more than one kind. There are more than 2 kinds. But the 2 which everyone seems to be “familiar” with are:

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So what can we do to help?

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All in all, having a mental illness is not much different than having a physical one-because as a human, we are both the mental and the physical. You see, there are not too many people who would go to a cancer survivor and tell them to “get over themselves”, but there are plenty of people who passionately do that to someone with a mental illness. It’s time to change these stigmas and reclaim healthy lives.

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I Live Alone

Dawn breaks

And my heart with it.

I close the blinds

To keep harsh rays at bay.

Time passes

And yet my feelings remain.

The hands on my watch move

Without me.

I make a cup of tea,

But my tears leak into it

I can barely put it down

My hands shake so much.

My husband comes home

But I’m far away

He asks me what’s wrong

But there are too many right answers.

The sun sets

And my problems arise

Waiting for darkness

To persecute me.

I fall asleep

Wishing to be free

But the shell that is me

Keeps me caged and alone.

Passion Will Get You Places

The biggest change I’ve made this year is accepting and embracing the passion which makes me tick. And because I’m a passionate kind of person, here’s some things that I’m sure you all wanted to know I advocate for. This list isn’t complete, but I’m well on my way to changing the world.
Things (and people) that I advocate for:

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-Rape victims and domestic violence victims: they need help, not judgment
-Equality and Equal Rights: Treat people like people
-Feminism: As a woman, I am equal-not superior and not inferior
-Literacy and Reading: It’s the most powerful tool we have
-Mental Health and Care: End the stigmas
-The Right to Choose Your Life: Be an individual, don’t force others to live according to your beliefs
-Environmental Rights: we only get one earth
-Animal Conservation (but NOT holing them for entertainment purposes): each creature is vital to the cycle of life
-Eating Disorder Recovery: again, help not judgment
-Suicide Survivors (and those contemplating): These individuals need hope, as much as help
-Artists: they see the world as beautiful and share it
-STEAM not STEM: Art is a vital part of science, as science is of art
-Religious Rights (and not just Christian): your way isn’t the only way
-Herbalism and Nature Appreciation: the earth is our mother, she supplies loads of good stuff
-Vegetarians and Vegans who don’t hate on Omnivores and vice versa: this goes back to the “you don’t decide how I live my life”
-Well-Informed Decision Makers: because ignorance flatters no one
-Culture Diversity: Because each individual makes up a glorious place in the world, and we need these differences in order to thrive.
So now you know!

I’ll See You Tomorrow

It is this day.

Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day.

Before I get into what I have to say, I want to focus on you. You who are downtrodden, broken and hurting. You who have traveled and fought and muddled your way through the vast recesses of your mind only to find darkness, fear and loneliness.

You don’t have to be alone. You aren’t alone. And you don’t have to be afraid. We are here.Brain Hands

As I sat through class today (anthropological theory) we touched on Emile Durkheim. He was one of the first people to really study suicide and the reasons why someone would take that option. The professor looked around and asked “Is it today or tomorrow?” Knowing what she was referring to, I told her it was today, voice hushed and reverent. The words which came out of her mouth next will stick with me for the rest of my life. She said:

“I’m not going to tell you it will get better. That’s bullshit. What I will tell you is that you’re not alone. That’s the truth.”

Bipolar 2

I saw a tumblr blog (I believe) which said something like:

Today my anthro professor said something kind of really beautiful: “You all have a little bit of ‘I want to save the world in you’, that’s why you’re here, in college. I want you to know that it’s okay if you only save one person, and it’s okay if that person is you.” I feel like a few people I know could stand to read this.

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Now, firstly, as an anthro student, I’m excited we all have professors who just “get it”.

Anyway. The people at TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms) have a theme for today, which is conveniently located in my title. I want to tell you where that came from. This was taken from the email I received.

“Above all else, we choose to stay. We choose to fight the darkness and the sadness, to fight the questions and the lies and the myth of all that’s missing. We choose to stay, because we are stories still going. Because there is still some time for things to turn around, time for surprises and for change. We stay because no one else can play our part. Life is worth living. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Bipolar 3

I know you are all carrying about your day and you’ve got a hundred thousand things on your mind. But remember this: At some point, your actions could have been the one thing making someone hold on when they felt like there was nothing left for them.

I was a freshman the first time I wanted to die. I was a little overweight, I felt the pressures of the expectations others had for me a little too greatly and I had excessive expectations for myself. But the thing is, no one told me that it was okay to be afraid and to let go of the things which were holding me back. No one told me that at the end of the day, it didn’t matter what society told me was needed from me. All I needed to hear was that I wasn’t alone: that I was loved and that there was hope. But then again, I’m not even sure I would have listened. Sometimes depression sucks that way.

Starry NIght

I carved the words “hope” and “love” on the insides of my forearms with razor blades. I had cut slices into my thighs. I had taken pills. The kind that when you take too many, bad things happen (like death). I took a LOT. I expected that in the end, someone would be glad that they didn’t have to clean up my blood, that they wouldn’t have to do much to make me look like I was sleeping. Inside, I was a scared little girl who had been pushed too far, had cried too much.

And then I threw up. I threw everything up and I kept on heaving. I tried and I tried to empty my stomach, empty my heart of feelings, empty myself until there was nothing left to hurt. And what I was left with was the quiet void of someone who felt a little too much and couldn’t go any further.

Into therapy I went, and if you look at the me who types here today, you can see that there are still some moments when the little empty shell pops out, waiting for a moment of your time. You can see the hurt and the pain which emptied me out all those years ago. But you can also see the me that faces my fears every single day. That pushes my boundaries and tries even when that little shell comes out. The little girl looks up at me with hope and love, kissing the scar tissue that remains on my skin.

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The thing is, no one gave me a reason to live, so I thought that that was a reason to die. But then I found out the most honest, sincere truth I’ve ever learned:

When I found no one to give me a reason, I gave myself the chance. I had to learn how to give myself love, how to open up a beacon of hope for myself.

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And here I sit, in my pajamas after a long day of class, drinking sweet tea and eating some zucchini thinking back on that dark time in my life, reflecting on the words of the two anthropology professors.

It isn’t that life stays bad forever. You just have to learn to see the good even when no one turns on the light.

So, my dear world, I would like to thank you all for existing. And I want you to know that I look forward to seeing each and every one of you tomorrow.

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