The Reality of Taking a Leave (from Uni)

This post is going to be a bit more personal than many of my others. I’ve had a lot on my mind recently and I made this blog with the intention to be 100% open with you all and 100% invested in its success. So here I am, sharing my current reality.
The following is my experience.

If you’ve read my post Living with Tachycardia 101, then you know that I’m currently taking a short break from my studies to deal with some medical problems.

This post is directed to those of you in similar situations, thinking of leaving or having left due to medical illness.

It took me almost a month to make the decision to leave college for a semester, and I still feel uneasy thinking about it. It feels unnatural, being home while my friends are studying and being independent from their parents.

You might lose a great deal of independence.

My independence was a big deal to me. Before I began dealing with tachycardia and the other various symptoms that have popped-up along the way, I was as independent as I could be. I bought my own groceries. I paid for school by myself as much as I could. I set my own schedules at work and school. I didn’t depend on my parents for dinner, a ride anywhere, etc. That changes when you leave, especially when you’re sick.

I came home feeling dependent on my parents. Dependent on their approval especially.

Was I making the right decision? Were they disappointed in me?

It took me a few weeks to realize that I had to do what I thought was best for myself, regardless of the opinions of anyone else.

You could spend a lot of time alone.

If you’re taking a leave of absence for medical reasons, like I am, and you can’t work right away, you’re probably going to be alone the majority of the day every day. My younger brother goes to high school, works sometimes after school, and also has extra curriculars. Both of my parents work during the day. So, I’m left at home by myself at least five days out of the week. At first this seems like an advantage. I know I was excited to be able to rest and relax alone with Netflix and no major responsibilities. But it becomes lonely after a few weeks, and you begin to get tired of being alone.

I keep thinking to myself:

If I were at school, I could call a friend to watch a movie with me.

I could talk to someone face-to-face. 

You’ll probably lose a lot of your support system.

I don’t want to say that you’re losing them because they’re technically still there, but you aren’t. The majority of my support system was composed of college friends, professors, and in some instances even employers. Making the decision to come home, I also had to grapple with the fact that I was leaving all of them behind. The reality is I can’t just pick up a phone and ask my best friend to come over, because she’s miles away in a classroom. I can’t just ask a friend to stay the night because they aren’t a few doors down from me anymore. It’s challenging. I know that they’re still there, but they aren’t within a reachable distance and that makes it so much harder to feel supported. I can’t hug my friends when I’ve had a bad day, because they simply aren’t there.

Don’t get me wrong, my family is a huge part of my support system. But it’s different. It’s so completely different. There’s nothing like watching an old movie with a good friend, being held by them while you cry, or getting milkshakes at midnight because you both feel like your life is in shambles.

You’ll feel like you’re missing out on a lot.

When you leave college behind you also leave behind the culture. I can’t go to the functions on campus because I’m not there. I can’t struggle through midterms with my friends because I’m not taking any. I don’t know any of the happenings on campus and can’t hear any of the new gossip because I no longer work in Student Life. You just feel so out of the loop.

You could struggle with anxiety and/or depression.

This has been a big one for me. Being alone the majority of the time, I’m left with my thoughts. And sometimes that isn’t a good thing.

What the hell is happening to my body? Why am I sick like this? Why is this happening all of a sudden? Will they ever find an answer? Will I have to live like this for the rest of my life?

A lot of the time no one seems to be as concerned as you are, which makes you wonder:

Am I blowing this out of proportion?  

Which leads to:

Did I make the right decision to leave school? 

It’s a downward spiral that leads to intense anxiety. There’s so many what-ifs when you have an undiagnosed illness.

On the other hand, you’ve isolated yourself either in an attempt to manage the anxiety that you’re experiencing, or because, like me, you don’t have access to the public during the day. Isolation leads to depression. You start thinking things like:

Maybe I did something to deserve to feel this way. My friends and family probably feel like I’m a burden. I’m too dependent on my loved ones. Maybe my boyfriend will leave me because I’m so needy. Maybe my friends will stop talking to me because I don’t have school in-common with them. Maybe I should just give up completely. 

You’ll have good days too, even great ones. 

Just yesterday I was in Charlotte, North Carolina enjoying pizza with Jon, thinking to myself how lucky I was to be sitting across the booth from someone so understanding, encouraging, and full of life. That morning we drove almost an hour to the mall to buy lavender-chamomile soap from a store with only one location in the Charlotte area. He didn’t act like it was a chore, and he distracted me from thinking about how I felt. When I started to get anxious about how fast my heart was beating, how dizzy I felt, etc. I just hooked my arm into his and let it come, knowing that if I should fall he would catch me. We got milkshakes at one of our favorite ice cream shops and drove through downtown just so I could look at the big buildings and interesting people.

Your family will always be there for you. 

This morning I called my grandmother because I was beginning to feel discouraged and anxious about how dizzy I’ve been the past few days, and was met with:

You’ve been doing so much better and you’re going to do even better. 

My mother has been my rock through this entire ordeal. When I first decided to come home, she didn’t approve, and sometimes it still seems like she doesn’t, but regardless she’s there for me. She has been to every doctor’s appointment with me, and has been my advocate 99.9%. She looked my cardiologist in the face and said:

As women our symptoms are often brushed off as anxiety. Don’t do that to her. I want you to leave no stone unturned. 

You’ll be just fine.

I’m not there yet, and if you’re reading this you probably aren’t either. But, I’m getting there one day at a time. Someone the other day told me that I was getting better, and I met that with the response:

I’m managing it better. 

And honestly, that’s all that matters.

Take it day by day.

Listen to your body.

Breathe and know that you aren’t alone.

You’ll be just fine. 

Untitled

 

Advertisements

A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear thirteen year-old Jess,

29646_1447183069302_3966731_n

You’re going to make it.

The big move to South Carolina that you think is going to ruin your life, is actually going to make it much better. The friends you’re worried about losing, aren’t friends you want to keep. Most of them are bad influences, even if you don’t realize it now. The boy you’re worried about leaving behind will follow you for five years, and then you’ll want him gone. I want to tell you to leave him behind because he’s going to tear your self worth to pieces in the next few years, but he teaches you an important lesson about unhealthy relationships and gives you the push you need to focus on self-love and acceptance.

The only friend you’ll really keep will be an old friend, and one that you wouldn’t believe will stick with you. She’ll accompany you to a funeral, a funeral that will put things into perspective. You’ll go to quite a few funerals in the next few years.

Don’t be scared though, everything happens for a reason.

That’s something you learn.

Everything happens for a reason.

It becomes a philosophy of yours, and you trust it.

Things are so much better now.

You’ll meet someone who shows you what a real, healthy relationship looks and feels like. He’ll push you to be a bit more willing to try new things. He’ll make you happy, and he’ll support you when you need it the most.

You’ll attend an all-women’s college (surprise), and it’ll be one of the most empowering experiences of your life so far.

You’ll still struggle, but you’ll learn through experience that recovery is a process. You’ll learn to believe in your intuition and trust what your body tells you.

You’re strong. That doesn’t change. You’ve always been strong.

Keep your head up. Don’t follow the crowd, be a leader. Don’t let yourself get worked up over the little things; everything is temporary.

Be brave.

With love,

Your Future Self

 Untitled

Period Tips & Tricks Every Girl Should Know

International Women’s Day was only a few days ago, so here’s to celebrating it now with a post that just screams womanhood!

Alright ladies let’s be honest, getting your period sucks! There’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s completely natural, but why does it have to be so annoying? The cramps! The nausea! The mood swings! When Aunt Flo comes to town sometimes it feels like you just can’t win!

I recently stopped taking birth control, for many reasons, including that it didn’t make dealing with my monster of a period any easier! When you stop taking synthetic hormones, your natural hormones go crazy!

With moontime on my mind, today I’m bringing you some of my favorite tips and tricks to make that time of the month a little bit easier on you, and your uterus!

Hot flashes?

Hot flashes are the worst! Sometimes it feels like you’ve put your entire head inside of an oven! When dealing with really bad hot flashes try this:

  • Try this face mask to “keep your cool.”
  • Wash your hair! It’ll cool down your head if you let your hair dry naturally!

 Cramps?

Cramps are one of the most debilitating symptoms that come with having your period! But they don’t have to last forever!

  • Try an over the counter pain reliever like Ibuprofen
  • If that doesn’t work or you don’t like taking medication, try a warm bath! Adding bath salts to your water can also help with any muscle soreness you may be experiencing.

Digestive issues?

Heartburn? Upset stomach? Diarrhea?

  • Try eating a banana! Growing up I was always told to eat a banana when I was on my period and experiencing troublesome tummy issues like diarrhea or constipation. The increase in potassium and magnesium really help!
  • Try ginger for nausea!

Feel icky down there?

  • Try these wipes that leave you feeling fresh after using the bathroom or changing your pad/tampon!

Exhausted?

Sleep is so important when you’re menstruating! Your body needs all the rest it can get because it’s going through so much!

  • Try to get at least 8 hours every night!
    • If you’re dealing with insomnia, as many people do on their period, try adding some lavender essential oil into the mix! You can add it to your bath water, diffuse it, or put a few drops on your pillow case!
    • If essential oils aren’t working for you, try hot herbal tea! Some companies even have blends made specifically to increase healthy sleep production! Try chamomile, or my favorite bedtime blend!

Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!

Staying hydrated on your period is just as important as getting good rest! Make sure you’re drinking a healthy amount of water!

STAY AWAY FROM ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE ON YOUR PERIOD

Small amounts of these things are okay (half a glass).

Craving sweets?

Try dark chocolate!

  • Dark chocolate is healthier for you than milk chocolate, according to various nutritional studies. (80% dark is suggested)

Bloated?

Avoid salty foods!

  • An increase in salt intake has been correlated with an increase in bloating!

Estrogen headaches?

If you’re on the pill, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When you take placebo pills on birth control, your estrogen levels decrease which can sometimes cause intense headaches that over the counter pain relievers can’t really help.

  • Try soy milk! Soy mimics estrogen in your body!

Feeling down?

Try out some exercise!

  • If you don’t feel like going to the gym there are other alternatives that also increase those feel-good endorphins in your body such as swimming and yoga!

Overall, just take extra time for yourself!

What do you usually do to alleviate symptoms of PMS?

Let me know in the comments below!

Untitled

Living with Tachycardia 101

For almost two months I have been living with tachycardia.

Tachycardia: an abnormally rapid heart rate

When I first started experiencing symptoms, and doctors couldn’t (and still can’t) put their fingers on what was causing them, I took to the internet in the hopes that someone out there was experiencing the same thing. I wanted someone I could relate to, so that this new and scary situation wouldn’t feel so frightening.

I am writing this post now in the hopes that the next person who goes hunting for answers, can find them here.


I want to say that it started randomly one night in the middle of watching The Intern with a friend, but I now believe that it started days earlier, and came full circle that evening.

I can remember sitting in class feeling lightheaded, feeling the need to get up and leave the room, to try and find somewhere quiet where I could breathe and clear my head.

One night, a friend and I met up for a movie in one of the college’s auditoriums. It was a comedy, there was nothing stressful about it. In the dark of the auditorium I suddenly felt myself slipping from reality, my ears ringing, hands shaking, heart racing. In the emergency room, the doctors found nothing wrong with me, only tachycardia.

Two days later I almost fainted in the shower, warranting another emergency room visit. This doctor found nothing, only tachycardia as well.

“She’s tachy- but we don’t know why.”

Although I absolutely hated being in the hospital, I did end up leaving with some pretty awesome hospital socks so there’s that. And they pumped me full of IV fluids, which left me feeling pretty great for a few hours. I got dehydrated my senior year of high school after the stomach flu and started calling the fluids “miracle juice.” I’m still quite a fan.

After seeing a cardiologist I was told that my heart is perfectly “normal.” He seemed unconcerned, almost bothered at our consult and didn’t look fazed when I almost collapsed in his office. They placed me on a heart monitor, one that I could wear home. For two weeks I pressed a tiny orange button with every chest pain, palpitation, and episode of lightheadedness. The electrodes I had to wear on my chest left my skin raw and blistered.

My primary care doctor signed me out of college for the remainder of the semester, and told me that I would most-likely need to find a new cardiologist.

“We’re going to fix you.”hope-1804595_1920

His words gave me the hope that I needed to push past my fears and doubts.


It has been nearly two months now and I still don’t have any answers.

But, the trick to living with tachycardia?

Well, it’s to continue living. Don’t put your life on halt because sometimes you need to sit and breathe, because you can’t walk up stairs, because sometimes you can’t sleep.

It’s scary. I can vouch for that. Sometimes it is absolutely terrifying.

But, you will get through this.

Find ways to cope.

I watch animated movies because they make me smile, remind me of my childhood, and because it’s simply impossible to stress over them. I tell myself to take deep breaths when I feel my heart rate climbing, because it’s easier to handle if anxiety isn’t in the mix. I call a friend or family member to distract myself when I can feel the pounding in my chest, because it isn’t so scary when you don’t feel alone. I started diffusing essential oils while I slept, so I could fall back asleep easier when I woke up in the middle of the night.

It’s the little things that help the most.smile-1804594_1920

But, please know that you aren’t alone.

I am right here and we can overcome this together.

For more information feel free to reach out to me at my contact page or via social media. Click the social media icons in the header for direct links to my social media accounts.

Have you ever had to accept and handle something that you didn’t understand and even found frightening? Let me know in the comments below!

Untitled

(Disclaimer)

DIY Comfort Kit

What is a Comfort Kit?

A Comfort Kit is a collection of readily available items that help ease tension, decrease stress, and stop anxiety in its tracks!

Comfort Kits are great to have around when you feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, angry, sad, or even sick!

Let’s get started!

First you’re going to want to grab a box, basket, or set aside an easily accessible space.

When I first built my Comfort Kit I used a small cardboard box because it was all I had at the time, and it worked wonderfully! However, after moving into my room back home from college, I decided to clear a space on the bookcase next to my bed for this instead!

Next, brainstorm ideas for what to put in your kit! Items that you find calming, grounding, make you happy, etc. are all great things to include.

I chose to focus on items that ground me and make me happy for my Comfort Kit.IMG_8788

 

These are the items I included in my Comfort Kit:

  1. Ginger candy *

    • I love the way these taste and they don’t really expire! They are great to use for nausea so I also use them when I’m sick.
  2. Coloring books *

  3. Colored pencils and markers

  4. Head massage wand *

    • My mom bought me a wire head massage wand for Christmas and I absolutely don’t know how I ever lived without it. I use it when I’m stressed, overwhelmed, and for headaches!
  5. Journal

    • I like to journal when I’m feeling really stressed or worried. Sometimes it seems like you just have so much on your mind and you can’t figure out what you need to focus on first, and journaling really helps me figure that out.
  6. Slime *

    • I feel like a child for playing with this goop, but who really cares? If you’ve been on Instagram at all since the beginning of 2017, then you know that slime videos are trending. At first I didn’t really understand their popularity. I mean, what’s so special about flubber? But then I tried some out and I completely get it! It’s so fun to play with! I went to Sassy & Chic DIY Boutique in my hometown and bought two different colors of glittery galaxy slime made for children by children. My favorite right now is the purple slime.
  7. Essential oils *

    • Essential oils are a great alternative to using candles, in my opinion. If you live in a dorm or other building where burning candles is prohibited, you should really consider purchasing an oil diffuser. They smell just as good as your average candle, if not better, and there’s no fire hazard involved! I like to use lavender oil for headaches, anger, anxiety, and in epsom salt baths when I am sick or have sore muscles!
  8. Yoga mat

    • Yoga has been known in many cultures to help heal both the mind and body. It’s a good form of exercise that isn’t strenuous, and that most everyone can do. I’ve even visited senior centers that use “chair yoga” as exercise and life enrichment for their residents. Check out Yoga with Adriene on YouTube!
  9. Buddha Board Mini

    • “Based on the Zen concept of living in the moment, simply paint on the surface with water and your creation will come to life in bold design. Then, as the water slowly evaporates, your art will magically disappear leaving you with a clean slate and a clear mind – ready to create a whole new masterpiece.” – Barnes and Noble
    • I like to use the Buddha Board as an alternative to journaling and coloring.
  10. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

    • “One rainy afternoon, while riding a city bus, Gretchen Rubin asked herself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” She answered, “I want to be happy”—yet she spent no time thinking about her happiness. In a flash, she decided to dedicate a year to a happiness project. The result? One of the most thoughtful and engaging works on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject.”- gretchenrubin.com
  11. The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock

    • Most of all, ask yourself. Questioning attitudes and morals, putting deeply held beliefs to the test, this provocative bestseller is a deceptively simple tool for self-discovery. Covering love, money, sex, ethics, technology, and more, it may be the only publication that challenges— and possibly changes—the way we view and live in the world, without offering a single opinion of its own.” –thebookofquestions.com
  12. How to be Happy (A Creative Workbook) by Lee Crutchley *

    • “This book cannot fix you, and it cannot make you happy. The good news is that no other book on the internet can either, but you already know that. Because you know, deep down, that no self-help book can make you happy. Just like you know, deep down, that you can. Maybe you haven’t discovered that yet, or maybe you’ve forgotten, but you know more than you think about your own happiness. This creative and practical book will help you draw, write, discover, and remember those things that make you feel happy…or at least less sad.”-leecrutchley.co.ukIMG_8796
  13. 52 Things to Try Once in Your Life by Lynn Gordon

    • “Shuffle up your life a bit with outrageous suggestions that are bound to bring a renewed sense of adventure into anyone’s life.  They make a wonderful gift for your friend who’s becoming a stick in the mud as they inspire activities that may break them out of their crusty old mold to really make the most of daily life experiences.”- Perpetual Kid
  14. 14,000 Things to be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer *

    • “Something to be happy about: This mesmerizing bestseller is revised and updated. Originally published 25 years ago (happy anniversary!) from a list that Barbara Ann Kipfer started making as a child, it’s the book that marries obsession with happiness. And it now has 4,000 fresh and more current reasons to be happy.”- Barnes and Noble

I keep a big comfy chair next to my Comfort Kit, and a warm plush blanket. This way, when I need some extra comfort or warmth while enjoying my kit, I can cuddle up right there no problem. I also keep an essential oil diffuser in that same corner of my room, so that I can use essential oils from my kit when I need to.

There you have it, your very own DIY Comfort Kit!

Let me know what you put in your kits!

Share a photo with the hashtag #livingwithspunk on Instagram!

Feel free to share your ideas with me down below in the comments!

** Favorite things in my kit!

Untitled

7 Super Simple Ways to Curb Anxiety (Tonight)

 

Let’s talk about anxiety, that uncomfortable feeling that starts in your gut, gives you cold and clammy hands, and makes you feel like you’re drowning in air. Everyone has dealt with anxiety at some point in their life, whether situational or generalized.

Situational anxiety– caused by new and uncomfortable situations, and changing events

Generalized anxiety– chronic, excessive, exaggerated worry about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for worry

Anxiety can be terrifying and sometimes long-lasting. However, it’s important to remember that it’s temporary and usually not life threatening.

I’ve compiled a list of 7 techniques that I’ve used to help deal with anxiety in the past.

1. Take a warm bath

Sometimes after a long, stressful day, we just need to take time to relax and decompress. I like to do this by taking a warm bath. Feeling sore? Add some Epsom salts to soak your muscles. Feeling overwhelmed? Try a bath in the dark with sweet smelling candles to calm your senses. Feeling sluggish? Try a bath bomb like these ones from Lush Cosmetics.

2. Drink something warm

Hot or warm drinks like tea, coffee, milk, and even water can be really soothing. Think of when you were little, did your mom ever make you warm milk before bed? Mine always made me a warm cup of chai tea when I was sick, and growing up with the mindset that warm tea can cure almost anything, I still use it to heal my mind and body today. My favorite de-stress drink is a warm cup of chamomile tea.

3. Put on warm socks

When we experience anxiety, especially intense anxiety, we’re usually left with cold and clammy hands and feet. A simple change in temperature can not only help with this super annoying symptom, but can also help provide comfort overall. The first thing I do when I feel anxiety coming on is pull on a warm and fuzzy pair of colorful socks. The brighter the better!

4. Color

Distractions are ideal when you feel an anxiety attack coming on. Grab some colored pencils, pens, or markers and a coloring book for some relaxing, distracting, and fun coloring. My friend gifted me a Supernatural coloring book for Christmas and I can’t tell you how wonderful it’s been to have around when I start to feel anxious or panicky.

5. Journal

Sometimes anxiety stems from pent-up emotions. Worried about something but don’t feel comfortable talking about it with someone? Journal it! It can be really helpful to write what’s bothering you, if you can’t talk about it. Just put it on paper and get it out of your head! Plus it’s really empowering to be able to go back and read about how you felt and know you overcame it!

6. Try out essential oils

My favorite essential oil right now is called Peace and Calming and is from a wonderful company called Young Living. Essential oils aren’t for everyone, but when you like them you love them! I use lavender oil for pretty much everything from headaches to anxiety, to a remedy for nausea, and everything in between! You can purchase them online or in-store. Most people use them in diffusers that spread the scent around the room, but you can also use some oils on your skin! I would suggest researching different options if it’s something you think you’d be interested in.

7. The rule of 15

If all else fails and you find yourself in the middle of a full-blown panic attack, remember that they can only last between 15 and 20 minutes. I learned this from my grandmother when I was younger and I can’t tell you how many times it has helped me out!

I hope these tips and tricks for dealing with anxiety help you as much as they’ve helped me! Good luck and happy self-caring!

Untitled