Left Behind: How Our Perception of Mental Health Hurts Women

Left Behind: How Our Perception of Mental Health Hurts Women

“What are you reading?” A classmate asked me one day in the nursing building. Half forgetting what I was actually reading, I turned the old hard cover over.

“A Farewell to Arms,” I replied. “Ernest Hemingway. One of my favorite authors.”

“Oh, he wrote that one about the old man and the sea right? Cool!” She replied enthusiastically.

I could tell she didn’t actually think it was cool at all. Then, an idea popped into my mind.

“Do you know how Ernest Hemingway died?” I asked carefully. She shook her head “no”.

“Old age?”

I reopened the page where I had left off and shook my head.

“He killed himself.”

Continue reading “Left Behind: How Our Perception of Mental Health Hurts Women”

America Bless God

America Bless God

propaganda4.jpg

Tommy paced the floor anxiously, pondering what he would say to his father when he walked through the door. Questions swam around his head like tiny little fish in a bowl, and it seemed like the world he knew had melted away.

“I’m home!” Tommy’s father’s voice boomed down the bomb shelter, bouncing off the red and white painted walls. He hung his coat on the brass eagle claw coat hanger.

“Dad?” Tommy inquired, peering out from the darkness.

“Yes, Tom?”

“I don’t think we’re good enough Americans.”

Tommy’s father’s head snapped towards his son and in a rage, grabbed the small boy tightly by the shoulders.

“What did you just say?”

“I’m only saying that because I’m confused,” Tommy cried pitifully. “The Jones next door have 40 American flags in their yard, and we only have 35.”

Tommy’s father paused for a moment, thoroughly dumbfounded.

“Oh my America,” he said in a broken whisper. “We’re good Americans. We pay our taxes! We’ve never spoken highly of Europe! We’ve repeatedly torn down Facebook posts that suggest the Canadian health model is superior.” He takes his small son in his arms as he weeps gently.

“Pray to Reagan tonight, my boy. Tomorrow, we go to the flag store.”

 

Nationalism is an extreme form of patriotic sentiment, including feeling superior to other countries. Nationalism may seem like a glorified form of patriotism—harmless, honest, and normal, but to me, it’s dangerous.

In America today, we have majority and minority groups fighting for rights and powers here or there. Some win. Some lose. Some groups fight for rights based solely on the fact that they do not have any. Others fight for their own political and, more commonly, religious agenda. I’ll be touching on religion and politics.

Americans somehow decided that God was the official mascot of the United States somewhere in the creation of the country. I’m not sure why this happened. I’m not sure when this happened. This creates something messy and dangerous: theocracy. That is not what America was founded on. Separation of church and state is clearly an American principle and Americans just choose to ignore it. 1456204106163889300.png

These guys will gladly tell you that they’re proud Christian, American-lovin’ Americans, then tell you to get out of their country because this ain’t no immigrant nation.

You can love your country and appreciate it, but here’s where most of the Christian right makes a mistake:

They worship America and use God as a weapon.

Most of them are proud to be American, not Christian. Most of them use their “Messiah” to create contention and discord by means of making Him a crazed war lord who feeds on the blood of Communists, atheists, homosexuals, and immigrants. They use their Christianhood to wield power over the minority, while somehow transforming themselves into the minority when the time is right.

And this, friends, creates the scariest thing a Christian can possess:

A CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION COMPLEX!!!!

When, O America, will we be able to practice our religion freely? To celebrate Christmas? To maybe–dare I say it–open colleges geared towards our religious demographic?!

Many people have confused Christianity with frenzied nationalism, sometimes combining them to create something SUPER frightening, and it’s being perpetuated by Donald J. Trump, billionaire and tanning bed addict. “Make America Great Again” connotes that America has fallen to pieces, and that our fragile, flightless bird of a country needs to be taken back: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”, once quipped by famous Italian fascist and murderer Benito Mussolini.

We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.

Theodore Roosevelt

Welp, I guess there’s no room at the inn. That’s erring more towards American rather than Christ-like.

We’re the BIGGEST, we’re the BADDEST, we shoot who we want. Amen. We are ‘MERICA.

For a “Christian nation”, we sure do like to worship Old Glory.

 

 

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Laura.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Laura.

margaret3.jpg

I use this phrase in jest when I feel like everything is spiraling out of control, but sometimes the question turns serious.

Like, seriously. Are you there, God? It’s me. Laura. You know, the person You created. Down here. Suffering. Nothing? Really? It’s fine. It’s fine. Nothing’s on fire. I’m fine.

But deep down inside, or maybe just below the surface, I’m not fine.

I’m not okay. And there’s the age old question that’s always asked and never answered:

Where is God in the suffering?

If you’re looking for an answer, or an uplifting anecdote that will leave you hopeful for about 12 hrs, you won’t find it from me. I don’t know where God is in the suffering. Right there? Really? Because I don’t remember Him picking me off of the floor. I don’t remember Him counting out my meds every day. He doesn’t schedule my doctor’s appointments.

“Pray about it.”

Oh, you mean stare at the ceiling in the dark until the turmoil in my head subsides or the clonazepam kicks in?

“Trust His timing.”

How am I supposed to trust someone who’s essentially 6 years late to the wild party that is my life? When will it stop hurting, when I’m dead?

“Leave everything at His feet.”

What, so I can come back and pick it up 2 seconds later? Mental illness doesn’t move for any person, distraction, or chemical compound on Earth. Jesus can’t solve my problems. They are not neatly tucked away into a backpack that I can leave with Him forever.

The worse I get, the farther the concept of an all-knowing being gets. This isn’t a Christian college student puff piece on Jesus healing my depression, and just because I go to a Christian university doesn’t mean I read my bible as I hammock. This doesn’t make me a bad person by any means. Just because I’m too tired to “chase God” doesn’t mean I’ve sold my soul to Satan. We need to stop alienating the people who are still questioning their religious beliefs, or people whose religious beliefs have been compromised.

If God knew me before I was born, then he would have created me to struggle. He would have created me to someday deal with this thing called bipolar disorder. And when I’m doubting, I’m told to turn to the very person who created me that way in the first place.

I feel like a child whose parents forgot to pick them up from school, a child who’s swinging their feet as they see all of the other children being picked up and carted home. 

I find solace in poetry. I find solace in cinema. I find solace in music. I find solace in fiction novels. I find solace in dancing. I find solace in a good cup of coffee.

I’m still waiting for God to show up. I don’t know if there is even a God, and I’m not afraid to say it. I haven’t figured out how I feel about that yet. Until then I’ll sip my coffee and read a book. They haven’t failed me yet.

The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

-Carl Sagan

Medicating Your Meds: Tips for the Pills That Kill

Medicating Your Meds: Tips for the Pills That Kill

A few tips to curb the side effects of those nasty meds you already hate.

Psychotropic medications are supposed to help, heal, and provide balance to the imbalances in your head. Unfortunately, they come with a beautiful list of side effects.

Here are some for lamotrigine (Lamictal):

  • dizziness
  • tremors
  • sleepiness
  • loss of coordination
  • headache
  • double vision
  • blurred vision
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • dry mouth
  • changes in menstrual periods
  • back pain
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • sleep problems (insomnia).

And my personal favorite: dysphasia & spoonerism. I can’t communicate very well, and I usually get words mixed up. Sometimes I’ll mean to say “I’ll take out the trash” but I’ll end up saying “I’ll take out the couch.” I replace words with words that have NOTHING to do with the sentence. Spoonerism is marked by switching the consonants of two words, such as “cirthday bake” instead of “birthday cake”.

Here are some of my tips and tricks to medicate your medicine:

  1. Do not be afraid to ask your doctor for Zofran. If you’re not eating, you’re not getting better. If you’re nauseous all the time, you can’t concentrate. Don’t “toughen up”. It’s okay to ask for 4mg of the good stuff. It’ll come in handy.
  2. Always have a nightly ritual. Try and be as consistent as you can. Get home. Wash your face. Take a shower. Put on pajamas. Read, or troll Facebook for 30 mins. Listen to music. THEN go to bed. This will teach your brain how to shut down for the night so you can get a good 8 hours.
  3. Always have a morning ritual. Get up. Stretch. Wash your face (self care and feeling refreshed is so important). Maybe watch some TV before you actually have to get dressed. Get dressed. Do whatever hair/makeup routine you need to do. Be on time for whatever you’re doing that morning.
  4. Find alternative means of medicating. Try acupuncture (I know. NEEDLES. But it actually does help with anxiety). Try getting a yoga membership, and if you’re poor like me try and get a yoga video to do at home.
  5. Try and eat healthier. If your body isn’t strong, it can’t heal.
  6. Take extra precautions during flu season. I’m serious. Stay away. I don’t care if your BFF has it: put on a mask and hand them that soup with caution. Lots of psych meds are immunosuppressants, so you’re more than likely to catch EVERYTHING.
  7. Talk to your doctor about B-12 deficiency. I didn’t know I was a pernicious anemic until I had a blood panel drawn. B-12 deficiency can cause depression, loss of sleep, lethargy, and confusion. You can take an oral supplement or you can get a weekly/monthly B-12 injection.
  8. Be open with your friends about how you’re feeling. Hiding your symptoms won’t do you any good, and suffering alone isn’t good for the mind and the body. Let them in. Maybe they’ll bring you coffee if they know you’re going to be a zombie that day.
  9. SELF. CARE. Make sure you’re taking time to just be. still. Block out the people, the tasks, the homework for just a little while. Get a coloring book. Pick up painting. Meditate. Buy a new book. Go to LUSH and buy the most amazing bath bomb and just treat yo self.
  10. Come to terms with the fact that you might not be able to do as much as other people. I know that my speech problems get in the way, and I’m always embarrassed, sometimes to the point of crying. Sometimes you can’t go out on a Friday night if you’re not feeling good. Don’t feed the beast. Your body will build resilience with time, or it may not. Don’t get frustrated waiting for the day you’ll wake up “normal” again.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

-Francis of Assisi

 

5 Films You Need to See in 2016

There are a host of films coming out in 2016: Batman vs. Superman (why are they fighting each other again?), the new X-Men, Suicide Squad, Rogue One, Star Trek Beyond, and the Jungle Book (which I’M most excited for). Maybe you love all of them. Maybe you loathe all of them. Maybe you’re just a little hyped for maybe 1 or 2. But while we’re looking ahead in film, let’s take a little look behind and appreciate the art that has already been made.

Here are my top 5 picks of what YOU should watch this year:

1. Love and Death (dir. Woody Allen)

irvette7

I absolutely adore this movie. It’s hilarious. It’s dry. Based in czarist Russia, a neurotic Russian and his cousin formulate a plan to kill Napoleon with Allen, of course, playing the part of the neurotic Russian named Boris. The film also stars Diane Keaton as his saucy cousin Sonja. It’s a gigantic play on Russian literature and czarist Russia, and it’s wonderful.

Favorite quote:

Boris: You think I was made in God’s image? Look at me. You think He wears glasses?

Sonja: Not with THOSE frames.

2. When Marnie was There (dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi)

tumblr_n8yche5E701qg78wpo1_500

Studio Ghibli holds a special place in my heart, so when I heard they released a new movie ON MY BIRTHDAY. LAST YEAR. I was a little ticked. The movie revolves around Anna, a gifted young artist who travels to the country to live with relatives due to bouts of social anxiety and depression. She soon meets a mysterious blonde girl named Marnie, whom she befriends quickly. Marnie lives in an abandoned mansion across the marsh, but everything isn’t what it seems when dream crashes beautifully with reality. Lovely, artistic, and heartbreaking, this film exceeded my expectation. (If you are on OC’s campus, I will gladly lend it to you!)

Favorite quote:

I love you the most too, more than anyone I’ve ever known.

3.  River of No Return (dir. Otto Preminger)

River-of-No-Return-river-of-no-return-32782669-500-250

Two words: Marilyn. Monroe. Yes, my girl. And she’s in a WESTERN. How killer is that? You see that woman in JEANS, with long hair and let me tell you: she looks fantastic. After serving a prison sentence, a farmer returns to a gold rush town to retrieve his young son and start his life over again. He’s left in the care of a singer named Kay, and they part ways never suspecting that they would cross paths again. After Kay and her fiance end up stranded near their farm, Kay’s fiance robs the farmer of his horse and gun and runs up to his gold claim alone. Kay, the boy, and the farmer head down river, plotting their revenge.

Favorite quote:

One thing about this: the longer you last the less you care.

4. Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (dir. Wes Anderson)

ead521eceeff9907c1244d45265c7b50

I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan. His color schemes give me chills and his characters send me to cinematic heaven. Amongst “Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, this gem is lost. Renowned oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) has sworn vengeance upon the rare shark that devoured a member of his crew. In addition to his regular team, he is joined on his boat by Ned (Owen Wilson), a man who believes Zissou to be his father, and Jane (Cate Blanchett). They travel the sea, all too often running into pirates and, perhaps more traumatically, various figures from Zissou’s past, including his estranged wife, Eleanor (Anjelica Huston). It’s funny, and it’s got Jeff Goldblum.

Favorite quote:

Don’t point the gun at him, he’s an unpaid intern.

5. Tombstone (dir. George P. Cosmatos, Kevin Jarre)

M0QLhom

If you haven’t seen Tombstone, do so. Marvelous writing, gritty one liners, and a WHOLE lotta Val Kilmer sass. Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) and his brothers, Morgan (Bill Paxton) and Virgil (Sam Elliott), have left their gunslinger ways behind them to settle down and start a business in the town of Tombstone, Ariz. While they aren’t looking to find trouble, trouble soon finds them when they become targets of the ruthless Cowboy gang. Now, together with Wyatt’s best friend, Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), the brothers pick up their guns once more to restore order to a lawless land.

Favorite quote:

Doc Holliday: This happens to be a nocturne.

Billy: A which?

Doc Holliday: You know…Frederick F*CKING Chopin.

 

I have a million and one more recommendations, but these have been in the forefront of my mind!

I hope your holidays were merry and bright. NOW GO BACK INSIDE AND WATCH MOVIES.

 

A Toast to the “Average” Student

A Toast to the “Average” Student

I’ve never been what you would call a genius. I am not a good test taker. I am your run-of-the-mill student.

I am average. And sometimes, I’m even below average.

tumblr_mobchtLcoh1rlwhflo1_400.gif

Being the Type B person that I am, I do not strive for perfection because perfection is not my end goal. My end goal is this: to learn, to retain, to apply.

We are the average. We’re the middle child. We are the students who don’t necessarily have to be looked after or need their hand held, but sometimes we get a little close to the brink of failure.

Just a little.

We are the students who try study method after study method: collaborative Google docs suddenly stopped working, so I hand-wrote my study guides for the rest of the semester.

Hand. Wrote. That’s 15 pages, front and back. I struggled to get those ready by test day. I spent every minute of my free time (which isn’t a lot) filling them out, high lighting sections to better understand what I was looking at.

Studying in the apartment got too old, so I switched to Starbucks. Starbucks was too loud, so I switched to one of those homey hipster coffee shops. Standing room only? Are you serious?

Back to the apartment I go.

We, the average, are always striving to meet our goals. Maybe this year I’ll get an A on a nursing test.

Maybe.

Just. Maybe.

But if we don’t? No fits are thrown. We don’t feel like the scum of the Earth. “C’s get degrees” isn’t our academic dogma, but sometimes we dream of adopting it when we wake up at 5 in the morning to study for our exams.

Here’s to you, average students, who know that it’s okay to be just the way you are, that it’s okay to walk out of an exam with an 80% but know all of the material by heart. You are not stupid, but you’re not the mathlete type either.

And that’s okay. 

Here’s to you, average students, who know that grades do not define who you are, that you don’t need the A to be a scholar, and that even just getting a degree is an accomplishment in itself. You work just as hard as the A students, if not harder.

School is not a competition, it is not a race, and you are not at odds with your peers. If this were the Hunger Games, we would be peacefully chilling out inside a tree hoping we don’t get stabbed. And I’m cool with it.

1354213474_funny-haters-math-mean-girls-subtitles-Favim.com-237042.gif

Your transcript does not determine the type of teacher, nurse, historian, counselor, psychologist, social worker, dentist, doctor, or musician you will be.

Here’s to you, average student.

Average people are the most special people in the world, and that’s why God made so many of them

-Michael Scott

 

Full Bloom.

Full Bloom.

I sat silently, tapping my foot as my psychiatrist took a moment to update her notes on my chart. I hate this part. I hate this part because I can’t lie, and I shouldn’t lie. Any altered physical or emotional symptoms have and should be reported, because, well, I’d rather not die.

She finally breaks and smiles at me, and I’m bracing myself for the question. Oh, God. Here it comes.

Any changes in mood? Are there any physical changes I should know about?

I sigh.

“Check the most recent weight the nurse took.”

Her eyebrows wrinkle in concern as she paws at some paperwork.

“130 lbs. Is that bad?”

“Yeah, considering I weighed 136 a week and a half ago.”

I had lost six pounds in just under two weeks, all because of medication. I don’t want to eat, and when I do I eat very little. And when a serious side effect comes along, that usually means more medicine. More medicine means my pattern and routine is reduced to dust. More medicine means more side effects.

“I’m not surprised,” she replies. “It’s a common side effect of Lamictal. Try buying some protein shakes.”

Oh, thank the Lord. I can do that. I can down disgusting protein shakes like a picky toddler.

And that is one of my branches on my life tree. This is my stress. The constant fear of some organ system failing, the constant pseudo-influenza when a dosage changes, all of the stick-and-pokes to the arm to get labs.

See, you have a trunk. You have this strong, central base. It’s composed of, well, you. It’s composed of your most solid, concrete personality traits and most overwhelming debilitations. And from this trunk come these beautiful (and not so beautiful) branches.

Constant run-ins with medicinal side effects: branch.

Constant insecurity that I’m wasting my life: branch.

My original prose and free verse writing: branch.

My awful and tacky watercolors: branch.

The mental and physical bruising after an awful mood swing: branch.

All of these things contribute to your “life tree”. Every branch is an off-shoot of your most basic being.

Sometimes, we don’t like all of the branches. We want to cut them down, we want them out of sight. We want them gone by simply taking a chainsaw and hacking that sucker down. We don’t want the pain. We don’t want to struggle through it. We always want the easy way out.

But think about this for a moment: what would your tree look like if you cut out what you don’t want, and, more importantly, what you don’t want others to see:

tuazon-2

It’s like looking at a hairless cat. No. Just no.

All your pain, sufferings, struggles, and flaws are a part of you. They make you who you are.

One of my favorite spoken word poets Neil Hilborn puts it so eloquently in his piece entitled “The Future” :

My sadness is my old paint under the new…I would still be me without it, but I would be so boring.

Instead of chopping off branches, trying watering instead. Shower yourself with love, perseverance, kindness, quality time, intentional behavior, and a sense of purpose and acceptance and I promise you, those branches you hate and despise will no longer wither but thrive. #LoveYoBranches

Beautiful-Tree-Wallpaper

It is only when we are strong and in full bloom that we can offer shade to others.