overwhelmed & underestimated|2019

When I was small I used to play out scenarios in my head of “what-if” situations and stress over the imaginary outcomes for hours. Sometimes I wonder if this early indication of anxiety is something I was genetically predisposed to or something that just worsened over time.

Don’t get me wrong– I’ve come a long way. I used to be scared of meaningless tasks, like walking into a room full of people or placing an order at a restaurant. I loathe the worrying. The constant go-go-go in my mind makes life feel exhausting. If I didn’t spend the greater portion of my day worrying about what came next, I might actually enjoy what’s right in front of me.

When people think of the word anxiety, they likely think about minor worry or nervousness. Rarely do they think of the intense headaches, fatigue, shaking, crying, and frequent panic attacks. I’m not weak, I just have a lot of intense feelings and thoughts that lack a positive outlet.

I care deeply about everything even if I don’t initially show it. I have so much love for a lot of things and I have a difficult time expressing myself thanks to my friend Fear. I love a lot and I don’t want to lose the things that allow me to be myself.

I don’t like being cynical, but I do like to be honest with myself about my fears and their control over my daily life. I won’t pretend like I’m not perpetually scared of the what-ifs– I definitely am. What’s scarier than the what-ifs? Missing out on good things because Fear has me by the throat.

The anxiety might never go away, but neither will my desire to be better.

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halfway there | 2019

Eight months ago I walked onto a new campus without a clue about anyone or anything.

It was the best decision I ever made.

Don’t get me wrong– there were days I hated every second of it. On more than one occasion I found myself up at odd hours in the early morning; crying and wishing that the feeling of loneliness would dissipate as soon as possible.

I learned a thing or two in the process and I hope someone can take from my ignorance.

  1. It’s going to be hard. University classes are a lot different than community college courses. It’s easy to walk onto campus with a big ass ego and assume you’ll be fine just by showing up. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a reason why college kids are so burnt out. Give yourself ample time to prepare for the week and allow yourself to make mistakes. No one knows what they’re doing. Give it your all, do what you can, and at least you can say you tried.
  2. There’s a lot of assholes out there. Quite a few of them can be found on college campuses– don’t let their jadedness steer you away from the good that can be found. I know its disheartening, but there’s assholes everywhere. If you know a few, be kinder. If you don’t, boy do I have some news for you…
  3. Having fun doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend every weekend in a random dirty frat basement surrounded by Chads and Brads. If that’s what you’re into, party up. If not, that’s plenty ok. Find what you like and run with it.
  4. Not every professor has your best interest in mind. It’s hard having had such a good connection with former professors only to be heavily disappointed by people that look at you as a paycheck instead of a person. These types of professors will drain the hell out of you. Keep filling yourself up.
  5. You will fail tests. Hell, you might even fail a class. You’ll be late some days, you’ll skip entirely, you’ll lose sight of what’s important because life gets in the way. That’s ok. We’re all on different paths to success and we’re growing at various rates. Remind yourself that nothing in life is perfect nor linear. Get up, do what you have to do, and own every bit of success and failure that comes your way. In the very least, you’re doing the damn thing and that’s more than what some people can say.

I have no idea what’s in store for me next year or what experiences the next few months will gift me. All I know is that the same rules apply– do what you’re capable of, love every second of it, and remind yourself that there’s more to life than a bad grade and a shitty day.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder | 2019

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

Things have been good. You’ve been doing well and everyone knows it. You look healthier, your attitude seems lighter, and it’s like a weight has been lifted off of everyone’s shoulders. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working. Maybe you’re better now.

But like all good things, that feeling of contentedness comes to an end. Nothing happens. Nothing prompts it. You’ve got it good– so why do you feel like you can’t “handle” it anymore? Why do you feel like you’re six feet under? You get mad because you know there’s no real reason why you feel the way you do–it just is what it is. You get even more angry because you know people out there have actual problems. They should be depressed, not you. You’ve got it good.

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

They say talking about it helps but you can’t find the right words to say because nothing makes sense. Like water on ink, everything blurs and deciphering it would be a waste of time. You’re afraid that if you speak about your feelings, you’ll stress them out. Your parents have heard it enough. Your friends don’t take you seriously. They all wonder when and if you’ll ever get better. They know you’re trying. Do they know you’re trying?

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

You don’t know which is worse– being numb or feeling everything that has suddenly piled up. You don’t even know what you’re fucking sad about and that’s the most frustrating part. You were happy a week ago. It frustrates you and them. You don’t want to be a disappointment. You don’t want to be the let down. Why can’t you be like the rest of them?

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

You thought you were ok, but you’re not ok. You know you have the ability to overcome it, but the idea of going through the cycle again exhausts you. It’s not worth it. Is it worth it?

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

 

The Unknown | 2019

The bathtub is filled half way with cool water. I wanted it hot, but it must be all out. Sometimes that happens.

I try to focus on the drip drip noise that comes from the faucet but I can’t hear anything. I feel heavy and indifferent. My mind is racing, but my body is slow and forlorn. I try to focus on anything but the thoughts running rampant in my brain, but they don’t stop.

That’s the funny thing about anxiety. It doesn’t stop.

Anxiety doesn’t care that I’m a good person, or that I have goals to achieve. He doesn’t care that I have a job to go to and friends to keep up with. Anxiety doesn’t care– it just is.

I sit up in the bath and I try some deep-breathing. It helps sometimes. My body is cold and the water is slowly draining; but I don’t care. I’m slowly draining, too.

The optimist in me knows that I have the strength to conquer even the hardest days–fuck, she’s never been wrong before. What makes lately any different?

My therapist confirms that my worry stems from The Unknown, a term I’m coining for my anxiety. The Unknown is a part of me. It is my ultimate downfall and my biggest blessing.

With it; I am haphazard. Without it; I am not me.

Some days I don’t know which is worse.

I’d like to take full responsibility for how I feel because it seems like the right thing to do. For awhile I blamed my dad’s suicide, and the sexual assault, and this and that. I was hell-bent on finding someone to blame other than just letting it be what it is– a part of who I am and something I don’t have full control over. I’m not a controlling person, but Goddammit, I wish I could be in control of this.

Anxiety doesn’t have to be a negative thing, though it’s damn hard to flip the switch on something with such a depressing connotation. Manifesting something so self-debilitating and turning it into a power tool to create a better you is not something easily mastered. I won’t pretend like I have done it myself– I haven’t. But I have complete faith that it can be done; only, and only if, you allow yourself to become wholeheartedly vulnerable.

I get it. It’s hard for people to come to terms with anxiety and all it entails. It’s hard to admit when there’s a problem; and even worse, it’s hard to seek help. When you do receive help, it’s hard to accept what’s being told to you. It’s too easy to fall into the rabbit hole, constantly wondering why do I have to be like this? and why can’t I just be normal?

I guess everyone is different. I’m no expert, you know? I have no idea what the hell I’m doing most of the time. All I really know is that I go through some shit and with that comes a burning need to help others that are dealing with the same emotions I am. Not everyone is strong and level-headed. I can’t fix these people, but I can be there for them as much as they’ll allow me to be.

The water in the tub has completely drained. The air has frozen my body but I make way to grab a towel. I’m frozen, but my mind is not. She keeps going, and going, and…

I have a theory that everything happens for a reason. All the good, bad, and traumatic has a place in our lives. We aren’t always meant to know why. We aren’t always going to understand it. It’s okay to not understand. Roll with the punches, take shit at face value, allow yourself to be engulfed in whatever life hits you with.

Hm, maybe I should take my own advice?

I’m out of the tub now, sleepy and ready to rest my head.

Tomorrow is a new day, and maybe The Unknown won’t be so bad.

But even if he is, we’ll get through it.

We always do.

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