THIS TOXIC WORLD WE LIVE IN

Dear Reader,

I think about this photo set a lot.

It’s from a TV show called Shameless that I still have to watch but is being RAVED about by everyone I know. I just saw the pictures on Tumblr one day, but it’s stuck with me.

“Renaissance women weren’t forced to starve themselves into an anorexic fashion industry marketing version of female sexuality.”

A lot of my friends are starving. One of my friends is a model and she confessed yesterday that she doesn’t eat as much as she should. We were having a casual conversation when she brought it up, and it slipped in almost unnoticeably because that’s so normal.

She’s also pre-med. She’s extremely smart. She’s funny. She’s edgy. But sometimes she doesn’t eat.

I have another friend who “pulls the trigger.” Again, it’s so casual when she talks about it. Sometimes it’s just when she talks about drinking, she’ll say she pulls the trigger in the bathroom of bars (meaning she causes herself to throw up) so that she can rally and drink more.

I once said to a group of friends “sometimes when you end a night of drinking by throwing up, don’t you feel like, well at least all of those calories are getting out of my body.” It’s a pretty relatable thought, actually.

And then we have my sister. She’s a freshman dance major. She’s an average height and a perfect weight. She’s got just enough of a booty, great calves, flat stomach, and is proportional everywhere else. She’s not a size 0, she may not be tall and super thin, but I’m envious of her body. Plus, she dresses well, can do her makeup like a boss, and is clearly the hotter sister.

This weekend after her recital our mother told her that she would be such a better dance if she lost weight.

She agreed.

She agreed before the thought even escaped from my mother’s mouth, because it’s a thought she’s had many times before.

It just makes me so angry. Everyone I talk to–and me–we know better. We know that we’re healthy and that we should love our bodies and that we shouldn’t think these thoughts.

When I went home for fall break and everyone told me how good I looked and asked if I lost weight, I knew it was toxic for them to say that. Because the reason why I’m losing weight is because I’m eating less. Because I’m off campus and I’m a poor (and frugal) college student. But I know that if I get enough positive reinforcement, I’ll continue to not eat as much as I should. I know that if I’ll keep challenging myself to go longer without eating. I know I’ll start to accept the growl in my stomach as a victory cry and I’ll start looking at food as the enemy.

I know I shouldn’t, but I know how slippery the slope is. I know how easily the brain can be manipulated and how, even unwillingly, the body will follow.

I’m not writing this as a cry for help. I’m starting to meal prep again and get back to working out and set my aim to be healthy.

I just hate this society. I hate that girls are going to extreme measures to live up to an unrealistic beauty standard. And I hate that we all know it, too. But we’re duped anyway because of the constant reinforcement from society that we should look a certain way. Because for every “body love” message I see, there’s ten pictures of thin girls–happy girls–that I want to be more.

I might write more on this topic later, but I just needed to vent. I think I’ll check out Believarexic and Winter Girls from the library this week. Just for more reinforcement.

As for now, though, I think I’ll make some spaghetti for dinner.

Sincerely,

Sammy

WHY I CRIED IN CLASS

Dear Reader,

In this Monday’s “Learners with Exceptions” class, the lecture given by Ms. Molly Kelly-Elliott focused on “Specific Learning Disabilities.” She started with the topic of dyslexic learners, but then moved onto about ADHD (not a SLD, but it can sometimes be seen in these students as well).

She started using examples.

Imagine, she said. Your son comes home from school and he knows he has 20 math problems due tomorrow and a rough draft for a paper due on Friday. You tell him to get his homework done and you see that he’s not doing minecraft or surfing the web or anything. You see that he’s actually working. And when he comes down three hours later you say, is your homework done?

He’s shocked.

Done? I just started!

You look over his shoulder and, sure enough, see that he only has one a half pages written.

So you think, what?! How? This is a paper that you could’ve knocked out in thirty minutes! What is wrong with this kid?

But that’s just the way he is. He doesn’t think ahead and realize he should probably prioritize his homework and do the twenty questions of math first–the ones that are due tomorrow. He doesn’t think about the consequences. He has seven tabs open, doing research for this one paper–this rough draft–that is due Friday and he is completely unaware that he is taking up too much time with it.

She went on to talk to us about this poor kid–this poor kid who just doesn’t know! He doesn’t know he needs to learn how to learn! He needs to learn how to study and learn how to better organize his work. He has no idea that he’s different.

Example after example she showed us. Slide after slide popped up, analysing these students.

“Metacognition and Executive Functions of the Brain”

“Motivation/Learned Helplessness”

“Social-Emotional Issues”

You know, we’ve got to help these kids! She said. I mean, can you just imagine? Their brains are just making it harder for them and everyone else around them seems struggle-free, but they just don’t know. So they start to feel helpless and worthless and their self esteem drops–I mean of course it does! Wouldn’t yours??

She went on and on, urging the class to be empathetic. To put themselves in the shoes of these kids. And although the main topic of class was SLD, every example she used was a student with ADHD.

And every characteristic was one I resignated with.

Every example was a story from my childhood.

I was the student on the slides, being analysed in that classroom.

But she was right. I didn’t know. And even after that class, and even sitting here right now, there are things I don’t know about this disorder. This way that my brain works.

When I went in to see that therapist at 15, I didn’t think I could possibly have ADHD because I didn’t think of myself as uncontrollably hyperactive. And they didn’t sit down with me and say, you have a disorder called inattentive ADHD, but it’s something you can totally handle and deal with. It can explain some of your behavior or personality traits, but there are also some struggles that come with it that you might just have to work a big harder to overcome, just so you don’t have too much trouble in the future. Here, let’s focus on getting you (and keeping) organized and let’s work on some strategies that will help you with your schoolwork, like prioritizing and setting goals.

They didn’t say any of that. Instead, I learned I have ADD, but don’t worry because it’s basically a dime a dozen with your generation, oh and here’s some meds that’ll just fix you right up. Those don’t work fast enough? Here’s another brand. Oh, except that’s not on your insurance, so let’s switch to that one. Shoot, you’re having heart palpitations? Let’s do some tests–okay you have something called POTS, here’s three pamphlets and some more readings. This can help explain certain things you’ve been dealing with because it’s something you’ve had for quite a while, but it’s totally manageable. Here are some more tips and stories of other people with this. Do your research. Come to me with any questions. You’re totally fine.

Oh, back to ADD? Umm, here try this pill. Feel good? Good. Because without it you might start feeling completely worthless and fall into a downward spiral of depression and self-hatred. Haha yeah, sucks.

Good luck.

add

So that brings us up to speed to the present, where every new discovery just seems to hit me like a ton of bricks. And sitting through that class did just that. I blinked back tears as I sat in the corner of the room and tried my best to inconspicuously wipe away any that had already begun to fall.

But it’s so weird going through school to become a teacher, because you realize how much more help you wish you would have had when you were there. I wish I was offered a class about how to study rather than a practically pointless study hall. I wish my English teachers had shelves in their classrooms, filled with row after row of alternate books we could read and discuss in class, or separately with them, because there’s so much literature I wish I hadn’t missed out on in my coming-of-age years. I wish my guidance counselor actually knew who I was past a transcript and an ACT score and, I don’t know, actually offered guidance.

My high school years are behind me, though, but I’ll still get to see thousands of students go through them themselves when I actually become a teacher.

I don’t know, I guess that’s my revelation here. There’s a lot of progress to be made in schools (and I only touched on a very very small part), and I’m determined to see it through.

I’m just trying to minimize the amount of tears shed in college. 

Sincerely,

Sammy

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.