MY MEETING WITH STANDARDS (HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY TO ME)

This Friday I really only got out of bed two times, and only to get food or go to the bathroom. I slept a lot, I missed my one class, and I really didn’t do anything productive.

I had a few days like that last semester, except the doctor had a different name to explain it. That was called “depression”, whereas Friday’s diagnosis could just be called the flu or a head cold. But the difference is that I didn’t need to go anywhere to get that diagnosis because I knew I could basically just sleep it off, drink some orange juice, eat lots of sodium (for my POTS), and in a few days it would correct itself.

I didn’t know that last semester. Or even throughout freshman year, for that matter. I didn’t know if I’d ever wake up, not feeling heavy, or numb, or just yearning to feel something. I didn’t know if a day would go by where I didn’t cry or I didn’t constantly think about dropping out of school, or just quitting. I didn’t know what these feelings were and that they even had a name, and that’s mostly because of the stigma behind terms like “depression” and “anxiety” and “ADD.”

There’s this statistic I read somewhere about people who take their own lives, and how they normally don’t have that feeling of community–whether it’s a support system or a church group or just close friends or family. In many senses of the word, they feel alone.

When I joined Phi Mu, I felt less alone. We had a sleepover before initiation and we went around the room and talked about the best time and the worst time of our lives. I was so moved by the openness of everyone and the atmosphere that was created–people talked about drugs, rape, the death of loved ones, even stories of walking in on a brother attempting suicide. Nothing was held back because these were all stories of things we had overcome. And now we had each other as a support system, should we need it. We knew what everyone went through at their worst, and we felt less alone.

My story of seeking out therapy after a professor referred me (due to a few rather dark, personal essays) seemed trivial in comparison, but I got a lot of love for sharing. And a few months later, a girl in my pledge class reached out to me with questions about it, because she was feeling the same way and wanted to find a professional to talk to.

Depression isn’t some rare, terminal disease that needs to be whispered about, but sometimes it is. People don’t know that much about it, and it’s because people are afraid to talk. I didn’t even know until last month that my ADD medicine can sometimes be deemed useless due to my depression. The brain is confusing AF, and we shouldn’t be scared off from trying to understand it and talk to one another about it. Because when we don’t, that’s when people can slip through the cracks.

Tomorrow I have a meeting because right now I’m on probation for not meeting grades–meaning that last semester I received a GPA of 2.6, which was actually pretty surprising for me. I mean, I didn’t think I did that bad. But I guess I did, and that requires a punishment–a probation period–because I didn’t meet standards.

And it’s interesting, because you could ask me anything about the Shakespeare plays I read or the media and communication class I took. Ask me about rhetoric or geography or how to write a solid news story for video or promote literacy in a high school class, and I could answer. I did learn a lot last semester, but just not in time, I guess. I didn’t always meet deadlines, I didn’t always go to class, and you can’t reward that behavior. It’s not fair to.

So tomorrow I’ll have to sit in front of a committee and give my side of the story, because although the numbers don’t lie, they never tell the full truth either. And it’ll be good practice for me, I guess, because I know that for the rest of my life, I’ll have to fight to be seen as more than a number. More than a transcript of grades or a piece of paper. Because I know I’ll be able to make a great teacher or a journalist or whatever I choose to do, and I know that this education will help me in the future, but the numbers aren’t really helping my case right now.

And it’s funny because I can tell them all that I’ve learned. I can tell them about all the wonderful relationships I have with my professors, and I can even talk about the article I’m co-authoring that’s going to go in some scholarly journal at the end of the semester, but they won’t really care about that. Because I could contribute all I have and work to the most of my ability, but if I don’t make grades, I could be dropped from Phi Mu, no questions asked.

So tomorrow, I don’t really know what I’m going to say. All I know is that at the end, I’ll ensure them that this semester is going to be better. I take adderall in the morning and citalopram at night. I have a supportive doctor and supportive friends. I’ve finally told my full family about what’s been going on with me. I haven’t had a panic attack in a month, and I even have a therapist I can turn to, should I need even more help. And I’ll end by saying that so far, I have all A’s, because that might be the only thing they really want to hear.

Because, again, we don’t know how to validate anything if we can’t quantify it.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. You should listen to this wonderful song by Dodie Clark:

{VIDEO} MY PILL JOURNEY: KELSEY DARRAGH

Dear Reader,

I went to the doctor’s today and I had an entire blog post written about it, all ready to post, but I decided to save it. At least for now. I’m just trying to figure out my feelings at this point and I normally don’t push “publish” unless I’m certain of my thoughts.

But not much is certain for me at this point. Except this video.

Buzzfeed had this “Mental Health Week” (which I loved) and this video is one of my favorites. I watched it within the first hour or so it was posted and about halfway through I realized that it was Kelsey Darragh telling her story.

I love Kelsey. If she’s in a Buzzfeed video, I automatically love it so much more. She’s absolutely hilarious, which is why she’s often featured in the “People Try” and “Debatable” videos. But she’s also so real and insightful, which is why she’s featured in videos like, “I’m Bipolar But I’m Not…” and this one: “My Pill Journey.”

I so relate to this story. Going into my sophomore year of high school, I was diagnosed with ADD. I think I tried four or five different medications because of things like my insurance or certain side effects like increased heart palpitations.

(In fact, it was that medication that led me to be diagnosed with POTS.)

And today I was given another prescription for antidepressants.

Because apparently depression and ADD have a venn-diagram-like-relationship in which not all depressed people have ADD and not all people with ADD are depressed, but when there is that overlap, medication tends to not have the desired effect. So you kind of have to take both to get what you want.

And that’s still what I’m trying to figure out: what do I want? What do I want to sacrifice in order to be happy? What do I accept as personality traits and what do I turn to medication to change?

That’s what my original blog post talked about, but it was kind of a mess because I simply don’t have the answers.

This video gives me hope, though. It comforts me and makes me feel not so alone. I’ve watched it over a dozen times and shared it with a lot of people–and today I’m sharing it with you.

I hope you enjoy.

Sincerely,

Sammy

 

HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Dear Reader,

I feel like I just came out to my parents. I think everyone does in different ways throughout their lives. The first time you get caught in a big lie. The first time they find out you’ve actually been drunk before–or the first time they piece together that you’ve had sex. You change in their eyes. You grow up.

So now I’m this grown up, living in the same house as my parents for the next six weeks, knowing fully well that they don’t see me the same way they used to. I’m not really sure how they see me now, but it’s different.

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For one, every day they ask me “how are you doing?”

And not in the way that’s like, “hey! how’s it going?”

But in the way where they pick up the phone and call, which is very different than how it used to be. Or, because I’m home now, they’ll knock delicately and come in and kiss me on the head or something and ask me how I’ve been.

But they can’t really expect me to be honest.

I think that’s still the hardest part–I can’t be fully honest with them. You can’t tell the people who made you and raised you into who you are today that you hate yourself. You can’t tell them something like that and ask them not to take it personally.

You can’t tell your parents that you’ve looked at a razor longingly before and still insist that you’ve never hurt yourself. Or that you’ve never thought about killing yourself. Because once it comes out that you’ve kept a secret for so long, they realize you can do it again. And no matter how much I insist that my thoughts have never been that dark, I can’t prove it.

But how am I? Well, I’m fighting with everyone about everything. I’m still sleeping to put off responsibilities. I haven’t been able to write a blog post in days because they all eventually take a nasty and dramatic turn and I end up saving them for my journal. Oh and the dog’s been following me around all day. You know how animals always know when something’s up and are drawn to sick people or people who need to be comforted? Well I just walked from the basement to my room, back to the kitchen because I forgot something, then to Sarah’s room, and then my own (stopping at each place to do something) and Izzy hasn’t left my side.

So you tell me how you think I’m doing.

I know I shouldn’t complain, but it’s hard. I’ve felt so pathetic and weak since I’ve come home, and I can’t remember why I was so excited to be here in the first place.

Sincerely,

Sammy

A DAY I WON’T FORGET

Dear Reader,

I’ve probably written about 5 things this week that could constitute as blog posts, but I keep thinking “stop! what are you doing? this is a happy blog! this is a place where you appreciate the good, not harp on the bad!” But I just don’t think that’s the truth anymore. Maybe I’ve just tried to protect myself from the repercussions of exposing the truth of how I’ve been feeling (for quite a while, actually), but I don’t think I can do that any longer.

So let me tell you about my day.

I woke up at 3AM on Thursday morning and cried for over an hour. I cried over things I couldn’t control and I cried about the parts of myself that I hate and I cried because I’ve been bottling it in for so long.

And these random mantras kept repeating over and over in my head, I think as a way for me to try and calm myself down. I just started thinking, crying about this isn’t going to get better. There’s no use in doing this. This won’t get better tonight.

This won’t get better tonight.

This won’t get better tonight.

This won’t get better.

I woke up a few hours later (huzzah for 8:30s) and noticed that my left eyelid was swollen and a little blue and my eye wasn’t able to open fully.

I think I actually managed to pop a blood vessel because of how hard I cried last night.

But I put on some sweats and tie up my greasy hair in a hair tie and head to my 8:30, looking and feeling like less than a person. But class was fine and I was actually invested in the conversation as we discussed the possible relation between Ophelia from Hamlet and Emilia from Two Noble Kinsmen. Then I started to get a bad feeling.

I thought it was just menstrual cramps or something. They’d never been that bad, but I didn’t know what else would explain the stomach ache and nausea. I tried to manage the pain but it kept growing, so I left the class to go to the bathroom and presumably throw up.

I burst through the door and immediately saw stars.

For those who don’t know, I have a tachycardia syndrome (heart condition type thing) that basically means I’m in more danger of fainting than the normal human being and have to watch my diet and fill it with plenty of water and sodium.

So I run into the last stall and lock the door behind me before collapsing on the ground. My first thought was to call 911 (dramatic, I know, and problematic for so many reasons), but I called my close friend, Kassara, instead. She doesn’t answer, but texts “what’s up? I’m in class. I can go in the hall if it’s an emergency.” I respond. “I’m sorry. Please. Can you please.”

And then my phone dies on 63%.

This all has happened in about 20 seconds and I’m on the floor in this nasty bathroom crying, but I think it’s at this point that I realize that I am having a panic attack. And that I’m alone.

All I can say is thank goodness no one came in the bathroom because I can’t remember the last time I sobbed that hard–ugly and audibly. (Usually it’s repressed, like last night when I was in across from my sleeping roommate.) But I managed to calm myself down somehow and ended up with my head by the toilet and my legs up on the stall door so the blood could flow back to my head.

I was just laying there, staring directly at the dim lights of the nasty bachelor hall bathroom, thinking, “this is what my life has become. unannounced panic attacks and episodes of near fainting.”

It’s a strange thing to feel your tears stream up your face and run into your eyebrows.

My phone turned on about fifteen minutes after it had “died” (my phone is so jank, it’s ridiculous), and Kassara ended up coming to my rescue.

Seriously, I cannot say enough nice things about this girl. She is the absolute best in these situations. She knew exactly what to say, she brought me water and bought me chips, and she made me feel so good as I sobbed to her about all I’ve been thinking about lately.

We both decided it was time for my parents to know what’s been going on.

I had this note written out from the night before that I hadn’t intended on them seeing for a while, but I guess life just doesn’t happen the way you expect it to, does it?

I first sent the screenshots to my mom, and then she ended up talking to my dad about it tonight. They’re both being amazing and supportive and I’m really lucky to have two parents who care and a friend like Kassara. And I’m lucky to be at Miami and I’m lucky to be a part of Phi Mu and I’m lucky for my health and I’m lucky for my finances and I just know it could be a lot worse. Everything could be so much worse, so I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time handling my life as it is right now.

But that’s how my day went. I really hope yours was better. And I hope my tomorrow will be better too.

I think it will.

Now I’m going to actually get some sleep tonight so I can take my geography exam tomorrow with a well-rested brain. And hopefully I won’t cry in front of my professor–though it wouldn’t be the first time. It’s just that I can’t remember the last day I’ve gone without crying.

So maybe it’ll be tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK FOURTEEN: MORE HAPPY THAN NOT

Dear Reader,

This isn’t the fourteenth book I’ve read this year, but I’ve been really slacking on book reviews. So I’m getting back into the swing of things with–I kid you not–the best book I’ve read this year.

If you’re not familiar with the way that I do most of my reviews, I hate spoilers. So, I try to give as little information as possible, while still recommending the good books that I stumble upon. The reason is because I absolutely love indulging in a story with absolutely no idea where it will take me.

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So here’s what I will say: I am in a class this year that is helping us future teachers be able to implement different reading material into the curriculum in order to relate to more diverse audiences. All I knew of this book was that it is about a guy who is coping with his father’s suicide with the help of his girlfriend, but he starts becoming confused when he starts talking to this new guy.

Sounds kind of interesting, right? Eh, maybe not. I even thought it wasn’t the most gripping story before I read it. But I honestly couldn’t put it down and started gasping and making exclamations when things happened–which is how you really know I was lost in the story. I even cried in the suite (discreetly, I might add) because I couldn’t hold back. Who knows how many tears would’ve come out if I were alone.

But I really, really don’t want to say more–not that there’s not more to say, but because everyone gets one chance to read this book for the first time. And I have a problem with over-promoting my recent obsessions to the point where they can’t possibly meet the expectations of those I recommend them to, but I don’t think that’s the case with this. I truly think this is a story that will stick with any reader for a long time. I think it’s shocking and touching, but also heart-breaking as well as eye-opening.

Basically, I’m just really excited to use this in my future classrooms and I can’t wait for the conversation it’s sure to provoke. And I understand that this book deserves a much better review, so I’ve made one. It doesn’t have spoilers necessarily (don’t worry, I won’t give away the ending), but if you don’t want to read a book with such little information, then you can go ahead and check it out here, using the password: esc (I hope this works… I’ve never done this before) 

Anyway, I really, really hope you read this. And I hope you love it as much as I do because I certainly played it up enough.

Sincerely,

Sammy

WHY GENERATION Y IS UNHAPPY

Dear Reader,

I read a really good article yesterday called “Why Generation Y is unhappy.” I encourage everyone (especially people around my age) to check it out, but I’ll just summarize it for now.

Basically, the new adults are finding themselves to be really unhappy and they can’t quite figure out why. But when we analyze how we’ve been raised and the kind of environment we’ve all grown up in, it makes perfect sense.

As Tim Urban (the author of this article) brings up, we’ve been raised to believe that we are special. That we all are special. Unlike our parents, we went through school being overly encouraged that we can achieve anything. “Anyone can be president” is a phrase I heard a lot throughout elementary school–which, upon reflection, is kind of weird because why is president the best job we can think of anyway? I think there are much more ambitious dreams we could have and, honestly, no one I know even really dreams of being president.

Anyway, that not only results in outrageously big dreams and unrealistic goals, but it sets the foundation for a lot of entitlement issues. Everyone goes through school thinking that they’re special. But that literally cannot be true. It is impossible for everyone to be special.

And then Tim says: “Even right now, the GYPSYs reading this are thinking, ‘Good point…but I actually am one of the few special ones’–and this is the problem.”

I actually laughed out loud in my student center, because I couldn’t stop that thought from crossing my own mind as well.

Another quote that struck me directly was when he explained his term for all of us in this category: GYPSYs.

“A GYPSY is a unique brand of yuppie, one who thinks they are the main character of a very special story.”

…….

I don’t know how long you’ve been reading my blog, but that’s how all of this began. I thought of myself as the protagonist in a rather unfulfilling story, and I wanted to change that. I wanted my story to be great.

So I was kind of taken aback (and embarrassed) that Tim had me pegged from the fourth sentence.

And that’s the thing–reading this post was weird. I mean, he was calling us GYPSYs delusional, and then proving it! And I knew all of this to some extent, but I didn’t really want to face it. And I was reading it thinking, so what? I should give up my dreams and realize how average I am and then I’ll be happy? That doesn’t make any sense.

But then I got to the end, where he gave three very important pieces of advice.

  1. Stay wildly ambitious. Good, because I don’t think I’d be able to give up my dreams if I wanted to. (And I don’t want to.)
  2. Stop thinking that you’re special. I especially like what he said to clarify: “You’re another completely inexperienced young person who doesn’t have all that much to offer yet. You can become special by working really hard for a long time.” So, I may not be special now, but it doesn’t mean I won’t ever be.  
  3. Ignore everyone else. This might be the hardest advice to take, just because it’s so difficult when you see your peers (and people much younger) going off and living lives that you wish could be yours. But by ignoring others, I can truly focus on myself and what I want to accomplish.

So that’s my take on this article. Definitely still check it out if you haven’t already! And, if you’re in generation Y, I urge you to stop trying to write a story that will rival that of your peers, but just write one that will make you happy.

That’s what I’m going to try to do.

Sincerely,

Sammy

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I’M WRITING A BOOK (LULU.COM)

Dear Reader,

A few weeks ago, I found out about the website “Lulu.com” and I can’t believe I didn’t know about it sooner. So I’m sharing it with all of you.

Lulu is a company that allows you to self publish books and ebooks. You can sell your work through their website and others, but that’s not quite what I’m intending to do.

I started a novel last spring and wrote like crazy for almost three weeks, managing to rack up almost 26,000 words. And then I just kind of stopped. I planned on working on it over the summer, but I kind of forgot about it. And I thought about finishing it up and revising it like crazy and then get serious about getting it published. Maybe I’d look for an agent or start going to writing conventions, I don’t know.

But then I remembered why I wrote it in the first place. I feel like a broken record, but I write for clarity. I take things that happen in my life and try to make sense of them. And last winter, I started feeling really sad. I felt ultimately alone, and I found myself easily aggravated at the few people who I constantly found myself around. And all I wanted to know was why. Why was I, a privileged girl from the suburbs who has the world at her fingertips, feeling depressed?

So I sought out therapy (you can read more about that in my recent post here), but it didn’t help like I thought it would. Then again, I might’ve had unrealistic expectations since I thought there was no way possible that he would actually think I was depressed. Even didn’t think it.

And then more stuff happened and I started to feel better, which made me think it was just seasonal, but then it got worse, which just made me feel helpless, really.

So I started writing a book.

A new book.

I started with a character that I largely based off of myself. She was a freshman in college, at a college very similar to Miami, and she was sad for seemingly no reason. But then the story started writing itself, and the girl suddenly wasn’t me anymore. It was a girl who had a traumatic experience, went through multiple therapists, and finally found one who she trusted–someone who actually understood her. And she fell in love.

So it was no longer my story, but it still helped me to write it. I still related to her, sure, and I loved finally working on something that I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was my own therapy, in a way.

And now I’m back at school, and it’s weird. I have so many good memories from last year, but I had so many bad thoughts as well. And I’ll listen to my playlist from J-Term and feel overwhelmingly sad again. Just because the music will bring me back to that place in my life.

So, long story short, I suppose, I’m going to finish this book and I’m going to publish it using Lulu. I’m going to have a hard copy of something I created, and I’m going to see my own name in print.

I’m going to have this goal I’m working towards–a goal that I so desperately want to reach. Not because I have dreams of being rich and famous and seeing my name in bookstores and signing over rights for the movie version. But because of the whole reason I like writing in the first place–it helps.

So these big dreams can be put on hold momentarily. I’m helping myself first.

Sincerely,

Sammy

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LET’S TALK ABOUT MINDFULNESS (and what really happened my freshman year)

Dear Reader,

I came across a video yesterday that I felt I needed to share. I can’t fully describe what I felt as I watched it, except that it sort of gave me the answers that I wasn’t fully aware I was looking for yet. Does that make sense?

Well, anyway, I need to share it. So here it is:

And now I’ll tell you why.

I’ve mentioned before how difficult freshman year was for me and how challenging the transition was, but I haven’t gone into much depth about it. I felt very overwhelmingly sad a lot, but I never thought it was depression. I know what depression is–I know it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. Even more, I know it requires more than just “thinking happy thoughts” to be resolved. But this sadness that I was feeling didn’t feel like that.

It felt like loneliness. And self hatred. And extreme, unbearable laziness.

So I did some research, called the health center, and scheduled an appointment with a therapist.

I could write an entirely separate post about that therapy session, because it brought out so many emotions and was such a terrifying and new experience for me, but I’ll keep it short for now. I went and talked to a very nice middle-aged man, and he basically told me straight off the bat that he thought I was depressed.

I don’t know how valid this diagnosis was, or if he was just speculating or assuming or what, but I’m still coming to terms with that. Because I still don’t know that I fully believe that it was depression. I still don’t want to label it as something that can be so serious, when, for me, it felt like I was just wallowing in my room all day being sad and lonely–which is not the same.

Here’s another video I found this week that perfectly describes what I was feeling this year–better than I can, at least.

So, that’s where I was at. Faking happiness. Not sure what I was going through. Not sure who was even there that I could talk to about it.

And that kind of brings us up to date all the way to today. I’ve been thinking about this concept of happiness a lot lately. I’ve tried to reflect on times when I feel the most happy and I try to repeat them in my mind over and over, so I can remind myself what it feels like. I’ve read The Happiness Project and made lists of resolutions for myself to keep. I’ve decided to go with the mindset: you are not happy now, but you will be once again. You just have to work for it.

Because that’s my biggest downfall. I am overwhelmingly lazy, and I think that maybe if I had just tried harder this past spring to make myself happy–to create more situations that bring authentic happiness, instead of anxiety and discomfort–then I would have been happy.

But I don’t know how true that thought really is. Because, sure, I can create beautiful scenarios where I’m at ease and I can live these happy memories, and store them to replay at night when I need to remind myself. But what am I supposed to do when I find myself in uncomfortable situations?

Because that’s what college really did to me. Speaking up in class, going to parties, interacting with strangers, praying people will like me–this all gave me anxiety. And I’m using this term lightly–again, I know how serious anxiety can be and these feelings I had may certainly be lesser when compared to others. I never had panic attacks or sought medication or anything like that. I would just feel extreme discomfort. My face would grow hot, I’d feel sick to my stomach, my hands would shake, I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else, I’d get head rushes–all of that stuff.

So what happens when I feel like that? I can’t just create these perfect scenarios all the time in hopes that I would remain happy. No matter how hard I work, I can’t do that.

Which is where mindfulness comes in–and where I urge you, if you haven’t already, to watch that first video.

They bring up a lot of good points and insight that I never saw before. Everyone just wants to feel safe. That’s what we crave. It’s what we need. And I so strongly relate to Ashley when she talks about talking to the barista (anyone who knows me can vouch for my awful–and inevitable–drive-thru interactions) and not only thinks about how she’s about to make a fool of herself, but how bizarre it is that this is a problem. And how does this not happen to normal people? Why me?

Wow, I feel like I’ve been writing for too long now.

But that’s where I’m at right now. This is how I’m feeling, and mindfulness is definitely something I’m going to look into. Because reminding yourself to be in the moment, and using simple tricks that mindfulness can teach (such as taking deep breaths and thinking about exactly what is in your control–such as how you are feeling at any possible moment) can really help curb the overwhelming feelings of terror and sadness and all of that.

I think it’s just the next step, and a very important step, that I need to take as I work towards being happier.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. Please let me know if you have any information or resources on mindfulness, as well as personal experiences with it. I would love to hear any and all takes on this concept, and it would be great to embark on this together.