296.89 Project #1: “Lights Out”

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I wanted to start a small photo series about the consequences of bipolar disorder beyond what the general public eye can see.

I wanted to start with a self portrait.

See, I’m good at hiding. Not to say I’m lying to you all about who I am, but I am trying to project the person I used to be before I really got sick.

Once I come home and have shaken off the burdens of school, studying, and taking care of other people during clinicals, you can really see me. I don’t smile. I retreat into a shell. I become withdrawn and have no emotions whatsoever, and if I do I’m usually weepy. There are bags under my eyes from not being able to sleep.

This is a tired person. Lights out, but it’s the same cycle the next day.

Okay, They Matter. Now What?

Okay, They Matter. Now What?

As I walk around the conservatory after chapel, I can’t help but notice the bracelets dangling off of people’s wrists.

“YOU MATTER.”, it reads.

YOU MATTER.

YOU MATTER.

YOU MATTER.

YOU MATTER.

YOU. MATTER.

OKAY, I GET IT. I matter. The movement is noble in nature. It surely will brighten someone’s day if they happen to be looking at your hands.

But you can’t wear a bracelet and expect to change the world. 

In light of Suicide Prevention Week drawing to a close, it’s important to reflect on whether we are showing up or showing off. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people experience some type of mental disorder. 1 in 25 have a serious mental disorder. Think about how many people you interact with a day. Now do the math and think about how many of those people are struggling.

Maybe you think your bracelet is inviting, that someone who is struggling will flock to you because you are now a lighthouse of solidarity and safety. I’m here to tell you that you’re dead wrong.

The first step to take is to build trust with your loved ones. Many people who are struggling with mental illness will not talk to you first. There is a permanent guard up for fear of being shamed, for being judged, or just being pitied. Don’t be a lighthouse. Do the hard work and row that rowboat to meet that person where the seas are the roughest.

Show up. Do not ignore signs of struggle because you don’t know what to say. Be interested and invested in your friends. Ask how their day is, and be genuine about it. Try to understand their conditions. Do not toss cookies at your person while they’re in their dark place; go and sit with them in that darkness (feel free to bring cookies with you).

You can post that you’re “here if you need to talk” on Facebook all you want, but you can never be truly accessible until you put that into practice in real life. Do not let your social media persona be better than your actual self. It’s easy to post. It’s harder to talk. We are facing an epidemic of indifference in our communities. We put up a sign that says “I CARE” but immediately retreat when someone actually shows up on our doorstep.

Apparently, I matter. Now show me.

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”

Project Charmant: Lovely on a Budget

Project Charmant: Lovely on a Budget

I follow many different bloggers and one, Estee Lalonde, posted recently about a wonderful French skin product made by Nannette De Gaspé. I sat there reading this review and thought to myself, “Oh, my Lord. These are so lovely. They probably sat there drinking tea and eating macaroons or something.” Yes, I’m currently sitting in an Old Navy tank top and yoga pants, hair semi-fried from recently bleaching my hair again, just having eaten some Chick Fil A breakfast.

Dude, this isn’t lovely. I want more. I’m almost 22 years old, so young and full of life, and I’m sitting inside all day watching Game of Thrones. My side of the bedroom is a mess, all of my clothes are unfolded, and I feel like my brain is slowly eating itself because of the energy I’m wasting on nothing.

So, here are some ways to be French chic! (On a budget).

Disclaimer:I have never been to the lovely country of France let alone Europe.

1. Invest in keeping your space neat and accessorized.

Messy bed, messy head. I know I personally cannot think clearly when my room is an absolute mess, especially my bed. Take time to make your bed in the morning and make sure the area around it is clean. It gives you a sense of orderliness, and fosters creativity and motivation! Drool over all of those neat chic beds on Pinterest? Start with your own space. Here are some ways I’ve made my space more “lovely”:

  • Created a mini bookshelf on my dresser. You can usually find old bookends at thrift stores and antique shops. And what’s more European than antique?
  • Invested in a few tiny knick-knacks. The decorations make the space look more put together, and it gives it a whimsical personal touch.
  • Organized my wall decorations. The wall closest to the head of the bed is all “ocean” themed: a map of the Hawaiian islands, “Life Aquatic” film things, vintage Hawaiian post cards, and other art.

2. Bring back the lost art of handwriting letters

There’s nothing that makes you feel more sophisticated than buying some nice stationary, some pens, and cute stamps. Letters are personal and should be brought back. Write your grandma. Write your parents. Write a friend from back home. Sure, you may not be on a balcony looking over the South of France, but the imagination is a powerful thing.

3. Attempt to learn a second language.

I use the app DuoLingo. It’s free, and has many languages to choose from! I know conversational French, but I’m always seeking to improve my skills. I practice 1/2 an hour every day, but you really should practice for an hour. Seriously. Learning a second language is not only rewarding, but it’s just commonplace in many different countries. It’ll make you feel more accomplished.

4. Listen to more Edith Piaf.

I love this woman. There is nothing lovelier than this woman. If you think French is pretty when spoken, it’s prettier when sung. “La vie en rose” is a standard, as is “Non, je ne regrette rien”.

5. Invest in more stripes + colorful pants.

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It’ll make you feel cool. Honest.

6. Fresh flowers are key.

Keeping fresh flowers in the house is always a lovely thing to do. Take care of them and they’ll last about a week. They bring pop and color into the household! Maybe make it a weekly mission to go out and buy fresh flowers. I’ve been lazy so I dried out a handful of baby’s breath, and it looks hella French. #winning

7. Find time to treat-yo-self with the occasional pastry and cup of café au lait. 

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Sip a cup of coffee, eat that pastry, and pray that High Tea catches on in America. Mucho lovely. Iced coffee with caramel syrup and cream is me and my roommate’s go-to in the summer.

 

You obviously don’t have to do any of this, for I’m sure you all are lovely people. But once I changed some of my habits, it made me feel a million times better. Grow where you’re planted.

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America Bless God

America Bless God

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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.

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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