It’s the Little Things

It is 3:00pm and I’m in my pajamas eating a dark chocolate orange and enjoying the silence of Jon’s apartment, aside from the steadily clicking keys on my computer keyboard.

I’m suddenly overwhelmed with this immense feeling of intense gratitude and contentment.


Guys, life has been crazy lately.

A few weeks ago I received news that a family member that sexually abused me when I was younger, sexually abused another child. That same week I had just started a new job and was trying to balance it with my other two jobs, stressing about affording Christmas, and noticing that some of my Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia symptoms were increasing.

Fast forward a week and my great-uncle passed away. My mother and grandfather had surgery on the same day (they’re both fine and recovering well). And, I’m still struggling to cope with the news about my abuser. My abuser contacted me while intoxicated towards the middle of the week and I didn’t really experience the full effects of speaking with him until the next day when I seemingly couldn’t stop crying and ended up skipping all of my classes for the remainder of the week.

I sat down and thought about writing a blog post about the reality of dealing with psychological symptoms that follow sexual assault, but I didn’t.

Instead, I sat down and I talked to my significant other.

Jon has been so understanding through everything. He has always been careful and kind and forgiving no matter the circumstances when I am going through something difficult. Over the summer, coming to terms with a new and scary chronic illness challenged our relationship in a multitude of ways. All of a sudden I was this terrified little girl that couldn’t leave her house for a meal or an adventure. We definitely struggled with communication, but ultimately, he helped me move past my anxieties about my symptoms and before I knew it, we were picnicking in the park on Sunday mornings and visiting the zoo on rainy afternoons.

I think the hardest part about confiding in anyone, especially those you’re close to and whose opinions matter most to you, is the idea that you could be rejected or misunderstood. That’s what stopped me from talking to him about how strongly the assault affected me, because I didn’t feel like my emotions or thoughts were valid. But, they are. For those of you that are going through similar things or have been there, know that what you are experiencing is real and valid and that you will recover and persevere.

For me, talking to him really helped, even though it took such a long time to work up the courage to. But, I’m so thankful I finally I did.

Yesterday was our two year anniversary. I have a stomach virus or something, not entirely sure, but we had to postpone celebrating until later this week. Last night wasn’t the most amazing night of our lives. We got into a disagreement about something trivial and I had to eat rice for dinner because my stomach is so finicky, and anyways, the night ended with one or both of us crying into the shirt of the other.

There’s something so beautiful and raw in expressing pent-up emotions, to just lay it all out on the table to be dealt with and to be understood.

This morning we woke up, he kissed me gently before he went to work, and he surprised me with Chic-Fil-A for lunch. I climbed back in his bed to study for finals, and to type this blog post in absolute appreciation for our relationship, for him, and for this life.

Our relationship isn’t perfect. We both have our faults, as humans, and we both have our faults, as lovers. It’s natural to have a push and pull in every relationship. However, it’s not so natural for the push to become a shove and the pull to become a tear (always remember that). I’m thankful that we’re able to communicate and find new ways to surprise each other. I’m thankful that we’re still in love after two years together. And, I’m hopeful that we’ll be in love and living in happiness for much, much longer.

There are a lot of things that I’m uncertain about in my future. I’m graduating college in about five months. I’m not sure where I’ll go to get my Master’s degree, where exactly I’ll be living, or how I’ll be making ends meet. But, I know that I’m capable and I’m excited to see what happens next, preferably with him by my side.

Earlier today an older gentleman holding a vase of red and white flowers knocked on the door to Jon’s apartment. The note read “no message,” and I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle at the endearing gesture after calling him and hearing that he’d left a message after all.

“Happy Anniversary, I love you.”

It’s the little things.


After a few weeks of dredging through emotional sludge, I’m feeling more mentally grounded than I have in quite some time.

I’ve been focusing on mindfulness and it’s really getting me somewhere.

When I start to feel anxious or out of control, I tell myself to stop and breath. I take in my situation, my surroundings, and realize that I’m not out of control at all.

It’s this mindfulness that’s getting me through finals week, and bringing me into Christmas break.

It’s this mindfulness that’s allowing me to express gratitude even in uncomfortable situations like disagreements, fighting this stomach bug, and knowing that my abuser is still out there.

It isn’t a cure-all, but it’s a start to feeling better and doing better.

I think, considering, I’m doing just fine.

A reminder: Be gentle, kind, compassionate, and caring to yourself and those around you this week and every week. College kids, be strong and determined as you conquer your finals and know that academic stress is temporary. I love you all, and I want you all to succeed.

Best,

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Fearless

It’s a cycle, this life.

If you pay attention to the minute details, you’ll get a glimpse at the cyclical nature of it all, constantly repeating itself like the falling leaves of autumn, seemingly stuck in an infinite loop until no further leaves are left on the tree.

Are we the leaves, or the tree?


Yesterday it happened again.

I felt the familiar chest pain, digging into my rib cage, settling in next to my tired heart.

I took a deep breath and I moved on.

Then again, on the couch as I studied next to a friend, I felt the familiar warmth creep up my neck as my head began to spin.

Recovering from last January took eight months. I went to counseling. I saw numerous doctors. I was poked and prodded by needle after needle until I feared my skin would turn purple indefinitely. I peeled countless heart monitor stickers off of sensitive skin and placed new ones on top of red blisters and small patches of mild bleeding.

I was terrified then.

Over an eight month span I taught myself that my body is my friend, that I needn’t be afraid of it or its capabilities. I stopped drinking caffeine. I was selfish because I needed to be, for my mental health, for my physical health.

The time I took to recover was so incredibly necessary, but so very time consuming.

I’m a senior in college now, staring my final semester in the face. I’ll be done in six months. That’s it… just a measly six months are standing before me and the end of my undergraduate education.

Yet here I sit, terrified again.

I’ve been feeling this way for two weeks, felt the symptoms start to slowly appear again like they’re as frightened as I am for their return.

Are they returning?

Is this it? Am I damned to live through the cycle of symptoms every year? Over and over?

I’m waiting.

I’m not sure if I’m waiting for them to fully set in, or if I’m waiting for them to fade, but nonetheless I’m present for them. I’m prepared for them this time.

On Monday in class I took a personality quiz that required me to select adjectives that describe myself. I scanned the page, not struggling with selecting quite a few until I came upon the word “fearless.” I paused for a moment and I took in the word, reflected on its meaning. I thought about the obstacles I’ve faced in my young life thus far.

As an eight year-old, I adopted the word “brave” as a descriptor for myself after having broken bones set without anesthetic. After reporting childhood sexual assault to a counselor when I was twelve, I adopted the word “strong.” In high school, I struggled with coming to terms with the sexual assault, leading to promiscuity and a handful of bad decisions related to marijuana, older men, and my academic integrity. I was described as “wild,” “courageous,” and “capable,” because I put effort into changing my habits and turning around bad decisions, so that I could succeed in honors courses, maintain healthy friendships, and continue with my academic extra curriculars.

I circled the word, “fearless.”

Because… why not? Aren’t I?

I’ve been fearful at times, but I’ve conquered so much of that fear with perseverance, optimism, strength, courage, and determination. And, while I’m still not 100% confident that I consider myself completely fearless, it’s something that I’m working up to feeling, believing, and ultimately being.

In the words of Poppy, Princess of the Trolls:

“I’m not giving up today. There’s nothing getting in my way. If you knock, knock me over, I will get back up again. If something goes a little wrong, well you can go ahead and bring it on.”

The cycle continues; overcome and become.

Leaves. Tree.

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ps: Please remember that while your education is important, your health is more important; take time to take care of yourself and focus on your needs.

For more information on Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia, my eight month break, or to see my most recent posts, check out the links below!

Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia

Living with Tachycardia 101

The Reality of Taking a Leave (from Uni)

 The Fish Bowl Analogy

The Fish Bowl Analogy

Yesterday I peed in a plant pot, on the side of the road, next to a church.

#NOSHAME

Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

Apparently I had to do that.


Next line of business…

 

Lately I’ve been dealing with this uncomfortable feeling of belonging. Like I’m somehow at this stage of my life where I don’t really care what others think of me, because I feel like I fit into life just fine. It’s uncomfortable because it isn’t my norm. I’m so used to being on my toes and feeling like I needed to do everything to the expectations of everyone else. I’m not sure when that changed but it did, suddenly it seems.

I’m less afraid. Whoa, that’s a big one.

That’s not to say that I’m fearless, although I’d like to be. I think I’m finally just at the point where it’s like, this is what you feel like every day and it isn’t changing but you are so buck up or get off the ride. I feel settled. Like magically this heart feels somewhat like mine again, and these bones fit my body better somehow. I’m less afraid of myself.

Less. That’s the keyword there.

Sitting in my dorm room, away from my family and in this awkward transition period of my adult life feels natural and still so foreign. This place, this college, the college that I once dreamed of returning to after each summer is now a place of both solace and discomfort; if those are emotions that can exist together simultaneously. I love the rose gardens, tall brick buildings, and promise of better futures for those around me, but it doesn’t feel the same this year.

It reminds me of that time. That night I sat in the emergency room that I’d driven by over and over before and never thought of. I was shaking, frightened, clammy, fragile, in an overly-large wheelchair, next to a bunch of strangers. A man with a buzz-cut that smelled like car oil was tackled by a police officer on top of my mother and I that night, around 2AM. I hid behind her as best I could as his pants fell to his ankles and he was handcuffed.

When I think of this campus I think of that night, and I hate myself for it.

How does one accidentally ruin something important? That’s how.

Wait, let me check myself before I wreck myself. 

Everything happens for a reason Jess, you know this. You literally live by this. 

In other news…

I’m so tired of being told not to let anxiety control my life. It’s like I’m a fish in a fish bowl and people are constantly feeding me BULLSHIT FLAKES until I die. If telling someone to mellow out and stop letting anxiety run rampant on their life was actually effective, mental illness wouldn’t be one of our nations leading killers. Honestly.

It does more damage than it does good to use anxiety and other mental illness as a catch-all for behaviors, ideals, and emotions that may be completely unrelated.

 

*mic drop*

In all seriousness life really is like living in a fish bowl. Like a tiny goldfish, we often feel trapped and confused. But, also like the goldfish, we feel content and even happy. Have you ever stopped to think, for us the world is our ocean quite literally in that we have the whole world at our fingertips. Whereas for a goldfish, the fish bowl is its world. It doesn’t care because everything beyond the fish bowl is unreachable and therefore unattainable. I know people that look at life the same way. Goals and aspirations are at their fingertips but still so far out of reach that taking a leap for them doesn’t feel worth it.

I suppose it’s all about character.

What does a goldfish have to lose?

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On Brain Fog, Chronic Stress, and The Future

It’s 11:00PM and I’m laying in bed next to a snoring (adorably) Jon, feeling my heart beat in different places on my body in seemingly different rhythms all at once. My hand is pulsing slowly, my chest thumping hard and fast, while my legs seem to throb relentlessly at an unsteady pace.

Things have been weird lately. I live everyday in this relentless fog that seems to cover everything like a blanket and leaves the world with this odd and uncomfortable dream-like feeling. It started with my memory, blurry vision, occasional bouts of confusion. Now, I have days where I can’t seem to focus enough to do simple math. It’s actually rather terrifying.

After a few weeks of complaining my mom suggested I see the concussion specialist I saw for my 6/7 concussions in high school. She told me that it could be an accumulation of previous head injuries finally taking their toll on my body, or quite simply it could be brain fog.

I’m a firm believer in the latter.

If you haven’t ever experienced brain fog, let me just tell you it’s torturous. You wake up every morning groggy and semi-confused about where you are and if your dream has ended. You pull yourself out of bed and slump to the kitchen where you’ll most-likely try to put water in the cat’s food bowl before you realize that something isn’t right and try to direct yourself to the cupboard for an actual cup. If you work, like me (that’s also new), you try to concentrate while you drive yourself to work on what feels like auto-pilot. At work you’re extra tired even though your shift just started, and you sometimes forget things you’re supposed to say to the customers that you service. About two hours into your shift you begin wondering how you’ll be able to drive yourself home, as out of it as you feel. When you get in your car after your shift you automatically get anxious. You feel like you’re asleep behind the wheel even though you’re awake, wide awake even. When you get home you forget to put the car in park before you get out, and then you get mad at yourself for forgetting.

I find myself most days wishing on loose eye lashes and 11:11s for a clearer perspective.

It’s difficult.

It’s especially difficult when you feel like no one takes your symptoms seriously.

And let’s be honest, over half the time they really aren’t taken seriously…

It stresses me out. A lot of stuff has been stressing me out. At the end of May we had to put down one of our puppers, which was incredibly difficult and very sudden. She went from walking to not being able to stand in a matter of two days. When we took her to the vet they told us she was paralyzed from the waist down and that it was spreading but they didn’t know why or what was causing it. So… there’s that. I started a new job that is very social and active compared to how sedentary and isolated I spent my time in previous months. So, that’s been a big change. Mentally and physically I’m still not used to it. I started cognitive rehab for my brain fog/ post-concussion syndrome (whatever) and it is really frustrating. I basically go in once a week and pay $50 for a clean-cut woman with manicured nails in scrubs to tell me I’m doing too much and need to do less every day. Well, I work and go to summer school and have other responsibilities soooooo. I can’t put my life on hold that easily (unfortunately).

Stress takes such a toll on my body. It’s ridiculous how stressed I feel physically when I’m mentally wigging out. This week my personal favorite has been chest pains. Are they cardiac or psychosomatic? The world may never know. I’m sore everywhere every day. Last night I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and wondered to myself if I had somehow broken my foot in my sleep because it was so incredibly painful to walk on. My stomach officially hates me and has decided that it’ll do as it pleases regardless of how much healthy bacteria I feed it (yogurt is love, yogurt is life), which just makes me nauseas and acidy all day and night. And to top it off, I have nightmares every single night (yikes). I have them so often that they’ve stopped freaking me out and I’ve started to become amused by them. 

The night before last I had a vivid dream where I ate rocks and then got violently sick while hanging out with John Boyega (that storm trooper from the last Star Wars movie that goes rogue). Every night it gets weirder. Last night I dreamt that I was actually dreaming an alternate universe where Jon would rather deal with the unfortunate side effects of male birth control (why don’t you exist) than be with me, and was trying to wake myself up in the dream. Which makes no sense whichever way you look at it; birth control doesn’t stop you from being attracted to people, and we had literally just had an important conversation about self-confidence and body image right before bed. Like come on brain. Chill.

Most days I just try to shake off what I’m feeling and turn it into a bad joke, which ends up being pretty unhealthy. Like, “well I’m not dead yet so I guess this is okay.” It’s not funny. I do this at work especially. Sometimes I’ll start to feel a little woozy and I’ll notice my heart rate rising to 130-140 bpm, and I’ll just internally laugh at myself. Like, “lol my stupid heart and weak body.” And it’s not helpful to think those things at all. But, for right now it’s almost an auto-response. And, because my mind is so foggy, I can’t really pinpoint when I started doing it or how. I can’t focus on stopping myself from thinking these things, because my focus in the moment is just getting through the symptoms and dodging awkward conversations about having to leave work early or needing a longer break.

I’m trying to see the bigger picture here.

I’m trying to focus on years from now when I’ll feel happier, healthier, more concentrated. But, it’s difficult to have that mindset when this fog feels so permanent and having a heart with a mind of its own feels so threatening.

For now I’m holding onto my determination to graduate college next Spring. My plan is to adopt a puppy and start my life with a fur-friend (maybe even service doggo) that same week.

Im looking forward to that.

And it’s not that far away. I just have to keep hope.

Xoxo,