killin’ it with Crohn’s— a journey with Renee Taylor | 2019

“As long as I keep looking for positivity, I’m pretty sure I’ll find it. The world isn’t that terrible after all.”

After months of excruciating hardship, Renee Taylor baffles over one thousand Instagram followers with her ability to shine light on a bleak situation she certainly didn’t ask to be a part of.

In May 2018, Renee entered the hospital with complaints of massive, painful bumps on her shins and left with an unexpected Crohn’s disease diagnoses. Erythema nodosum, a symptom of Crohn’s, were the bumps that left Renee unable to walk. Within a month of the diagnoses; Renee lost twenty-five pounds– unable to eat anything without experiencing extreme digestive issues.

Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory problem that primarily affects the digestive tract, isn’t all that common– only about 200,000 cases occur in the US per year.

“The hardest thing that comes from this disease is the loss of normalcy. I understand there is no true normalcy to this life that we live, but it’s simple things like not being able to work out or shower because I can’t stand on my own,” she explains. “I’m a very independent person, so losing that independence is very hard for me.”

Looking at Renee, standing 5’3 with sunshine seeping from her aura, you’d never initially know there was anything wrong. The idea that someone so seemingly healthy can be going through their own personal hell is a reality check to all who witness her daily struggle.

“I wish people knew that Crohn’s isn’t just a stomach problem. Running to the bathroom is the least of my worries when it comes to the terrible symptoms I experience. The inability to walk, mouth sores, skin rashes…the list goes on. It hurts when people try to relate by saying they have stomach issues. I know they mean well, but sometimes I just want to say ‘you don’t fully understand!'”

Renee’s treatment includes weekly injections of Humira, a TNF blocker that helps reduce inflammation and eases the debilitating pain of Crohn’s.

“When I’m not experiencing a flare-up, I live completely ‘normal.’ I can eat what I want, exercise, I don’t have to go to bed by 5 p.m…things you don’t really think about. There are times it’s hard for me to keep myself going, getting up, and walking on my own. It becomes a matter of picking and choosing what I get done that day. Sometimes I simply don’t have the strength or energy.”

Despite the daily pain Renee experiences, she continues to shine light on the silence of Crohn’s disease with her Instagram, @killinitwithcrohns, where she openly expresses her struggles and educates her following about the disease.

“You can find positivity when you’re looking for it.”

If you are searching for the epitome of something special, look no further– Renee is your girl. We could all learn a thing or two from her– and maybe we should. It’s easy to take the small things for granted when we are healthy and happy.

If you’d like to follow Renee on her journey, she’s available on Instagram @killinitwithcrohns.

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the five worst things about social media | 2019

Like most youngins’, I find myself scrolling through Instagram and Facebook far more often than I would like to admit. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of filtered vacation photos, selfies, and righteous life-changing announcements from all two-thousand of your Facebook friends, including but not limited to:

That girl you met once at the bar

Your middle school lab partner

A former coworker you haven’t seen since you quit your job in 2010

That guy you’ve never met but has 200 mutual friends

It’s nearly impossible to focus on the good in your own life when the flowery, super-fucking-cool, undoubtedly awesome, magical lives of others are blasted on every platform you’re part of.

This is why I compiled a list of the top five worst things about social media:

  1. Unrealistic expectations

No average person has a life that revolves around nonstop vacations, parties, and trips from around the world. If they do? Good for them. If you don’t? Good for you, too. Comparison is the root of evil. Enjoy whatever path you’re on. You will forget, (I know I do!) you will be envious, you will get upset– that’s life. Find the pause and remind yourself every day if you have to. You don’t need constant sun-kissed beach trips and expensive lifestyles to be happy.

2. Competition

I know people that obsess over the amount of ‘likes’ they get on a photo because they truly believe their worth is defined by a bullshit construct. Please; for love of everything good and pure, find your worth in anything other than Instagram likes and Twitter favorites. You are better than that.

3. Followers

Unless you’re running a business, creating a brand, or promoting your craft, why does it matter if you have one-thousand followers or fifteen? Does it really make a difference?

4. The need to impress others

The only people you should care about impressing are potential employers, customers, or the audience for your art. Why does it matter if Amy from freshman year thinks you’re cool? It doesn’t.

5. The influence ads have on your wallet and mind

You don’t fucking need Gucci slides and Yves Saint Laurent handbags just because everyone else does. But hey, if that makes you truly happy– you do you boo. No judgement from me. Just make sure you’re buying it for you and not because you feel the need to impress others.

Moral of the story?

Find happiness in other areas of your life, not social media. Be kind to others. Understand you are worth more than a Facebook like and Instagram follower.

Thank you for coming to my Ted talk,

Leah

stop bullshitting & start living: note to self

They say good things happen when you least expect them.

Maybe there’s some partial truth to that.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on life and how drastically things have changed for me over the past several years. I was always hell-bent on having my life turn out a certain way that I forgot to enjoy the present moments, whether good or bad. I thought that if I kept looking for the things I thought would make me happy, I would find them.

I didn’t.

It took a long time for me to accept that life is not linear. It’s not a step-by-step manual to be followed word for word. Truth be told, nothing works out according to schedule. Plans falter. People come and leave. Ideas fail. Opinions change. There’s zero wrong with any of these things– in fact, they make for great lessons and even better stories.

I remember being seventeen and having this idea that I would move to a big city to start over and get away from the monotony of my stagnant hometown. I guess I was partially right– I did move away. I did start over. I did get away. The problem with my grand idea was that it wasn’t entirely realistic. Looking at life through a rose-colored lens is unrealistic. Nobody told me how lonely it would be. Nobody told me about the debt I would accumulate up to my eyeballs. Nobody told me it would be one of the most refreshing, yet heartbreaking decisions I will have had made, to date.

Just one year ago I was engaged to the wrong person and lying to myself about our relationship. I can’t tell you if it was the insecurities keeping me from being completely honest with myself, or the inability to escape from my comfort zone that trapped me for the duration of that relationship. I wasn’t happy with myself, there was no way in hell I would be happy in a marriage. The moment I decided to put myself first was the moment I grew as a person. From that point forward I knew I needed to do whatever made me happy, regardless of what other people thought or what their reactions would be. I hurt a lot of people; but to be fair, a lot of people hurt me.

The way I live my life now is a complete 180 from what I had grown accustomed to for so long. It’s amazing what self-love, the desire to be better, and an open-mind can do for a person’s attitude. I still have bad days. I still cry, (a lot, might I add.) Along with all of my faults, I’ve grown mostly comfortable with how things are turning out. I can say that while although my life is hectic and crazy and I’ve made a lot of questionable decisions, I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

I worry a lot, I panic a lot, I think ahead a lot. But I’ve also overcome so much more than I could ever dream of putting into words. I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the unknown. I’m trying to stop questioning the good things in life and start accepting them at face value.

If you told me one year ago how my life would look like today, I would undoubtedly tell you to fuck off. I’m glad I changed.

Let those good times roll.

 

expectations are bullshit | 2019

Why does society make us believe we need to meet grand expectations by nonexistent due dates?

When I was little I thought that I would have my life figured out by twenty-five. I thought I would be married and have kids and have a career. It seems like the closer I get to twenty-five, the more pressure there is towards having a college degree and having a sense of stability and having a family. We have painted this picture for ourselves and everyone around us that milestones need to be done in an orderly fashion.

How fuckin’ unrealistic is that?

I know people that had children at 20 and graduated college shortly after. I have friends who never went to college and make a substantial living. I know people who did things “by the book” and are still unhappy. Is there a happy medium? Why do we insist on following a timeline created for us because that’s what society tells us to do?

I always ask myself “Leah, when will you finally get your shit together?” as if any twenty-two year old is supposed to have life figured out. As I get older, I start to realize that no one really has it together. In fact, I’m willing to place money on none of us actually knowing what the hell we’re doing. You know what adults do? They fake it. They don’t know as much as we give them credit for. The grown-ups we spent our childhoods admiring are just as clueless as us, they’ve just spent longer practicing how to bullshit.

It’s tiring going through each day feeling like an adult failure. It’s defeating to look around the room and feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t have their life together. I don’t know about you, but I often beat myself up over it, even if it’s something I have no control over.

You know what that makes me? A time-waster, not a failure.

We fail to take into account that life is unpredictable and often surprising. That’s not a bad nor good thing–it is what it is. There’s enough pressure in our lives already, so why create unnecessary stress in our already taxing lives?

You know what I say to that?

Fuck it.

Life is way too short to not enjoy where you are in the moment, even if it’s not where you’re “supposed” to be. Let go of expectations and allow yourself to feel free.

Until next time,

LK

 

more than a diagnoses | 2019

“You have nearly every sign of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Do you know what that is?”

I recently visited a psychiatrist at the discretion of my psychologist. I knew that the tendencies I had were unhealthy; and I knew that I was different from others, but I always chalked it up to anxiety and my personality as is. I guess the idea of being bipolar crossed my mind, but I never gave it much thought. Why would I?

I also knew my thought process was different from my peers–it always has been. I had an idea that some of the things I was doing were destructive. I have a bad habit of blowing all of my money without second thought or thinking of the consequences that may rise from it. At twenty-two-years-old, I’m a few thousand in debt from credit cards alone because of impulsive decision making. It’s not that I don’t know any better– but in the moment of being manic, I don’t think about the shit I could face from being rash.

The past few years I’ve gone through periods where I’m on top of the world and I genuinely feel like I’ve “cured” my depression while my anxiety maintains a normal level. I’m happy, carefree, and I love my life. I feel this way every few weeks. People notice and I love the attention when they say “You look happy,” and “You seem to be doing well!”

Then it hits.

The lows are always heavier than the highs. They last longer, they take up more mental space, sometimes they leave me thinking things I’m not proud to admit. When I’m crashing I don’t see anything half-full, rather I’m questioning if my life is worth living or not. I feel empty and voided. I always thought this was just depression and nothing more. It didn’t occur to me that this cycle of highs and lows was more than just a typical case of depression.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m entirely skeptical of this newfound diagnoses. It seems like everyone today has some sort of mental illness. I almost don’t want to talk about this because it seems silly– more than three million Americans have bipolar disorder. If nearly everyone seems to have some sort of mental illness, what is that saying about our society as a whole?

I’m not any different than I was before I visited the psychiatrist. I’m on medication now; sure, but I’m still the same person with the same beliefs and values. Generally speaking, I believe we let ourselves be defined by what we have and not who we are–myself included. Maybe that’s our downfall. Who we are is based off of experience and values, not what we take medication for.

I take mental illness seriously because it has affected me my entire life. I would not be half as compassionate and empathetic if it weren’t for the obstacles I’ve been dealt since I was small. As much as I advocate for mental health, and as important as it may be in my life, it’s not who I am entirely. I’m a daughter, a writer, a girlfriend, a friend. I’m a student, an animal lover, and a procrastinator. I am many things– not just some girl with mental illness.

All I can hope for is to wake up tomorrow a better version of myself, and if it takes a prescription to give me a little push, then so be it.

If all I am in life is bipolar, I think I’m doing pretty damn well.

So are you.

 

 

Jack & Honey | by: Leah Koneski and Tommy Marmolejo

I can smell the cigarette through the phone. I want her to say it. Loud and clear, like a firework in the sky.

She tells me I’m her honey. Says it right on her wrinkled white shirt.

I can’t help but stare, those beautiful blue eyes, an iris so thin. I see the photo so clear, it’s almost like you’re here with me.

I can trace the tattoos so well. I wanna know the meaning.

When did the ink hit?

Was it the same time as the pen?

You can repeat it in your penmanship. The ambiance in your room is filled with scented sticks. No escape of creativity. It encapsulates every bit of who you are.

My love sparked again with sudden jitters, just like how it was after morning coffee. The way the sun hit your eyes and lips, melted my cerebellum. A better kiss.

I wonder where you are now.

__________________________________

The taste of whiskey and spontaneity dripped from your tongue, a sensation I could never forget. That was when I first knew.

My lipstick stained the edge of the mug, but you didn’t notice. I felt your stare burning through me. I was too scared to look up, you know the fear always wins.

You say those words I want to hear, I want to believe that you mean them. Do you mean them? Do you mean it?

The writing begins again. Maybe this time it won’t be about you.

Be sure to follow Tommy on Instagram @zerox500

regaining the stolen self-worth

The sad part about today’s world is the hard truth that most people have probably experienced some sort of abusive relationship; or in the very least, mildly questionable tendencies from their partners.

For a long time I had this idea in my head that I could fix or change someone if I tried hard enough. If they weren’t changing, I wasn’t trying hard enough. I became so lost in trying to fix someone that I lost myself in the process.

It was great in the beginning– I felt loved and worthy and he seemed to really care about me. It didn’t take long for him to singlehandedly destroy my self-respect by manipulation and complete disregard for my best interests. I’m frustrated that I let it get to a point where such a thing would be possible, but I’m even more mad that his behavior has influenced me long after our breakup.

I never thought I’d let the actions of one man affect my future romantic or platonic endeavors, but I have. I can’t help but think someone won’t be nice to me just for the sake of being nice or out of genuine concern. I can’t help but think that when someone’s busy they are actually just furious with me or sick of me; when truthfully, they’re just fucking busy. I can’t help but wonder “What’s wrong with me?” or “What did I do wrong?” when I haven’t done anything at all. I’m mad at myself for letting someone who didn’t deserve an ounce of me or what I had to offer ruin all of the confidence I had in myself.

I recall one time he was irrationally angry with me over an innocent misunderstanding. When I defended myself against his harsh words, he responded with name-calling. He told me it was my fault I felt the way I did and if I was “more careful” he wouldn’t have said what he did. I can’t imagine treating someone I love with such blatant and blunt disrespect and cruelty. That is not love. I regret to admit this was only one layer of his physically and mentally abusive habits.

I believe the worst part is when someone authentic and worthy comes along, it’s hard to completely open-up because you’re afraid of judgement and you’re afraid to be looked down on. I spent too much time believing I was dumb because that’s exactly how he wanted me to feel– so why wouldn’t someone else feel that way about me too? My anxiety often translates something innocent into something entirely different in nature. I can’t take anything at face value. I’m frustrated that I let a man who had no confidence in himself take all of mine without any remorse. It’s embarrassing for me to admit this so long after the fact. Realizing that not all men/women are bad or inherently mean is a difficult thing to accept when you’ve been treated so piss-poor before.

Regardless, I give future relationships and friendships my all and understand that’s all I can do. He may have taken my confidence, my self-worth, and my ability to fully trust– but I can get all of that back with time and practice. I learned a valuable lesson and he can’t ever take that from me.

Don’t let past experiences influence potentially beautiful opportunities. We are all worthy of happy, healthy relationships. If you haven’t found yours yet, it’s coming. Be patient; but more importantly, be kind to yourself.

 

 

 

a one-way mirror | 2019

I look around me but nothing seems real. People are going about their lives like clockwork, some scurrying to whatever important meeting is happening today and others are lazily walking to wherever their feet takes them. Some listen to music and others are glued to their phone screens. Some are aware, others are not. I observe, all the time, wondering when I’ll get to be “one of them,” wondering when I’ll stop living life like I’m looking through a one-way mirror.

That’s the weird thing about depression, you know? As soon as you feel like you’re on top of the world, He creeps up behind you and startles you back into the corner you just barely crawled out of. You could be doing everything right and following everyone’s advice–but He doesn’t care.

Go to work. Get to class. Go to therapy. Eat healthy. Exercise. Write. Read. Stay off social media. Do yoga. Drink enough water. Do this, not that. Keep your friend group small. Find a new hobby. Smile. 

Depression doesn’t give a shit that you ate a gluten-free breakfast and drank 70 ounces of water. He is ruthless and random. He just is. It’s silly to assume that someone doing everything “right” is exempt from mental illness.

Three weeks ago I was positive, uplifting, and ready to singlehandedly take on the world. The past three days I’ve wondered if I have a purpose and questioned if my life in particular is worth living.

It seems silly– that much I realize. Of course my life is worth living. It’s worth just as much as everyone else’s life, but when He has you entangled in between His fingers, it’s hard to rationalize those thoughts. It’s hard to see things clearly.

I think when you lose a parent or someone you love to suicide, the more likely you are to question if life is worth living. My dad’s death has caused me a lot of issues that I didn’t come to grasp with until very recently. I never had the opportunity to properly grieve the loss of my childhood, so here I am ten years later trying to conquer the near-impossible. Deep down inside of me is a twelve-year-old that barely had the chance to be a kid. I remember being eleven and coming to an understanding that my father had the intention of taking his own life. I distinctly remember standing on the middle of Cemetery Street begging my dad not to kill himself. He promised me he wouldn’t and hugged me tight.

Less than a year later he was dead.

How does a child go through something so traumatic and not end up with trust issues? Anxiety? A general fear of abandonment that carries with them through adulthood? That’s just it– they’re going to come out scathed and fucked up. It’s a part of the process. You can heal and learn to love and let go, but that god-awful feeling of being alone in this world will never leave. Depression will make sure of it.

Don’t get me twisted, though– I think life is beautiful. I think my trauma, in some demented way, is beautiful. I think there’s a lot of good in this world. It’s not hard to find, not by any means. Goodness comes in many forms:

Kids that smile at you in the grocery store. The stranger behind you in the drive-thru that pays for your overpriced cup of coffee. The guy at the stop sign that lets you go first even though it was definitely his turn. There are so many pure things in this world that go unappreciated because we’ve forgotten that good things aren’t necessarily grand things. It’s hard to focus on the good when the bad is so amplified. It’s hard to be good when the world has done us so dirty.

I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t recently questioned whether or not I want to be here– I think we all do that at one point or another. Some more than others. I go through periods of deep depression around this time of year, every year. The cycle ensues, but so does my integrity and drive to do better. I said to my therapist yesterday that I don’t think I have any more fight left in me, but we both knew that was bullshit. If I truly didn’t have any fight left, I wouldn’t have been sitting in her office. I wouldn’t have gone to class. I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. So while my morale is low, my stubbornness is not. The little girl inside of me that never had the opportunity to grieve is what keeps the adult me going.

Maybe she didn’t have a great childhood, but she deserves, in the very least, a good future.

What kind of asshole would I be if I let her down?

 

the mess you made | 2019

actions have consequences, you ran from yours

leaving a trail of uncertainty behind

the mess you made, its still not clean

because the heart you broke

still bleeds.

 

how could someone so bright be so boldly unaware?

the shot you took tore her apart, but you didn’t think

years from now it would still sting

why didn’t you think?

 

actions have consequences, you ran from yours

leaving a trail of uncertainty behind

the mess you made, its still not clean

because the heart you broke

still bleeds.

 

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