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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How to Start Over | New Beginnings

Whoa, whoa, what’s up guys?!
I hope all of you are doing great and feeling wonderful!

Last night’s full moon has surely taken a good bit out of me and lots of other people I know! It’s so weird how something as simple as the moon can have such a large impact on our bodies and behaviors. My mom and I were in the car yesterday evening and we were both just complaining to each other about our aches and pains, our insomnia, etc. when we both realized that it was the eve of a full moon!

Yikes!

She works in a hospital and swears the emergency room volume goes up ten-fold on nights with full moons. So, good luck to her today!

Anywho, now that the full moon is waning, better times are brewing!

I’m talking about new beginnings! Who doesn’t love those?

If you follow Living with Spunk on Instagram (you should), then you know that yesterday’s story was brief but important! Whatever you’re going through, whether you’re a spoonie with dysautonomia like me or a plain jane who’s had a bad day, it is going to get so much better! Yesterday, for the first time in five months, I drove by myself multiple times! Whoa! Mega whoa! I was definitely patting myself on the back by the time I got home; celebrate the little victories! The last time I drove by myself (before this), I had a full-blown anxiety attack. It wasn’t fun by any means and it really put me off driving alone again. I was cleared to start driving again in March, but after going so long without driving I sort of just continued to avoid it. When I finally did get behind the wheel again it was terrifying! All of a sudden I was in control of this huge, heavy vehicle when some days I barely feel in control of myself! But hey, baby steps. Everything is about progress, and I’m sure as hell progressing!

I’ve come such a long way just within the last month, and I plan to go even farther.

Later today I have a job interview and I’m driving myself to it.

Nerves are high, and emotions are higher (lol PCOS). But, I am so ready to move on from being a couch potato! I have binge-watched more Netflix since I have been home than I am proud of…

I am so ready for my new beginning.

“We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new ending.”

– Zig Ziglar

I had a great friend my first two years of college. We’ll call her Anne.

Anne and I grew close, very close, and I’m not even really sure how. We lived on the same residential hall and had mutual friends. Somehow, we became the best of friends. We thought we were a lot alike, but thinking back on it we were always so different and that’s what made us work. She was studious and well-mannered with long-term goals and morals. I was an anxious mess that skipped classes, raised hell about equality, and carried a very loose set of morals. She kept me in-line and took care of me when I needed someone, and I helped her relax and live a little when she wanted to. Anne and I got into a lot of arguments sophomore year, many that ended in tears. Lies, misunderstandings, and our opposing personalities eventually drove a wedge between us. We kept trying though, or at least I thought that we were. We took a trip together, and on that trip I believed 100% that we would be able to mend whatever bits of our friendship we could. However, it didn’t work out. Just as suddenly as we made friends, we parted ways.

It was a mess, honestly.

There are things I wish I hadn’t said but at the time I was still so hurt about it.

We’ve all been there.

Anne mentioned something towards the end about how during our friendship I exaggerated things to make myself seem a victim. I’m sure that at the time she was angry and maybe she meant it, maybe she didn’t. But it’s sort of stuck with me through everything.

When I met her I was, like I said, an anxious mess. I was more like a disaster honestly. I was in an unhealthy relationship, mentally recovering from childhood sexual assault, and trying to figure out the entire independence thing. I went through a phase where I was all about tattoos, piercings, blue hair, and late-nights out with guy friends (ew not like that). I had all of these feelings that I didn’t understand and I’m sure that a lot of that translated into crying in the shower, starting fights that I didn’t need to, and trying to one-up everyone in the “I’ve been through more” game. I’m not necessarily proud of that time in my life. But, it helped me grow as an individual and if I hadn’t gone through it I wouldn’t be the woman I am today; the woman who has decided to not ever be a victim again.

I think when I got sick I lost track of that part of myself. Today, Anne was on my mind and she reminded me that I’m so much stronger than this thing.

So, back to the theme of new beginnings…

This one is mine, and you can have yours too.
We could all use an Anne, right? We could all use a wake-up call.

So, how? How do we start over? How do we make way for new beginnings?

It’s as simple as deciding. A few weeks ago my mom told me that I only felt sick because I chose to. At the time, it broke my heart. I felt like she wasn’t validating my feelings and battle with my health. But, now I realize what she meant.

I can choose happiness.

She sat me down and told me a story about my grandfather, before his death, who had lived a coward a great deal of his life. She told me that when he was diagnosed with cancer he made the decision to begin living what little life he had left, and that he regretted not making the choice sooner.

Everyone has bad days, some more than others. But, it’s what you make of those days that matters. Struggling is a part of life, and it’s totally okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s okay to feel discouraged, angry, etc. Emotions are a huge part of what makes us human! Feel them!

But, don’t sacrifice your chance to be happy by relishing in the pain, your symptoms, your terrible job, etc. Yes, you might be stuck in a position that you don’t like or want to be in, but you’re just going to be miserable if you don’t adopt an optimistic and positive outlook.

I’m guilty of this, as I’m sure many of you are.

Jon and I got into a bit of a heated discussion at the beginning of this week because l decided to take on a pessimistic attitude about my illness. Jon mentioned that he believes exercise could help condition my heart so that when I have bad days, they aren’t necessarily terrible days. He thinks that exercise can help me heal. But, he got frustrated when I told him that I wasn’t interested in exercise, because… I don’t believe I’m going to get better. I finally admitted, to the both of us, that I don’t necessarily believe my condition is going to improve.

And that’s the problem.

I’ve been sitting around the house, not really trying to find a way to feel better, just sulking since January. That’s my mistake.

There are so many other things I could have done with my time, but I chose not to. I chose to sit and feel sick and feel unfortunate and to make myself a victim to pessimism, negativity, to my illness.

I have no reason to believe I won’t get better. But somehow, I suddenly chose to.

And now, I am choosing not to.

From this moment forward I am choosing happiness. I am choosing optimism. I am choosing smiling instead of crying. I am choosing strength instead of weakness. I am choosing to adopt a better attitude about my illness, my life, and the outcome of it all.

It’s as simple as that.

You just have to choose.

Mind > Matter

If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!

Thanks for joining me on this awesome journey.

Until next time,

13 Reasons Why People Aren’t Watching 13 Reasons Why

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of one of Netflix’s latest originals, “13 Reasons Why.”

The series originated from Jay Asher’s Young Adult novel, about a high school girl who commits suicide and creates tape recordings listing thirteen reasons why she did it. These tapes are circulated between different involved high schoolers after her death.

I never read the book in high school like many of my friends did. I remember eyeing it in the school library but opting for other books, like Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (currently a motion picture). The books are similar in nature, in that the protagonist dies in the beginning. But, one of course is accidental and the other suicidal. I think that growing up, and dealing with occasional depression and anxiety, books about suicide really just weren’t my thing. Kinda triggering don’t ya think?

Which leads me into the topic of today’s post.

I can think of about thirteen reasons why I can’t finish watching “13 Reasons Why.”

  1. It hits way too close to home

    As someone who has lost two friends to suicide and dealt with the aftermath, this series really put a bad taste in my mouth. When someone you know and care about takes their own life you start to feel guilty, you don’t really need tapes to make you feel that way. I know that when I lost one friend in particular, I asked myself if I could’ve done something to stop her from making that final decision. The reality of the situation is, regardless of what you did or didn’t do, it isn’t your fault. That person made that decision themselves, and are fully responsible.

  2. The suicide is shown in full on-screen

    I didn’t get to this scene (thank goodness). I got as far as Clay spiraling into depression and self-destructive behavior before I had to stop watching the show. There’s been a lot of drama surrounding the suicide scene and while the producers stand-by their decision to include it in the series, a lot of media outlets and psychological societies have issued statements that go against their decision. This begs the question: is it harmful or helpful? While the producers argue that including the scene really drives the message home and raises suicide awareness, many people feel like the scene could trigger those with suicidal ideation and cause more damage than help.

  3. Rape is shown in full on-screen

    As a survivor of sexual assault, I can tell you right now that watching the two graphic scenes in the series would’ve led to nights of little-to-no sleep, flashbacks, intense anxiety, and a major depressive episode. While a warning is displayed at the beginning of the episode that lets viewers know of the scenes, the argument exists that not everyone may realize they can’t handle that kind of content until it is too late.

  4. SO MANY TRIGGERS

    The series is a goldmine of triggers; from the self-harm to the rape and suicide, and everything else in-between. As I mentioned previously, I only got as far as episode seven before I realized that watching the show was going to negatively affect my mental health. I have dealt with manageable anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember, anxiety especially. Watching the characters deal with their mental illnesses in such intense and dramatic ways really started to get to me. I realized that I was pushing myself to finish the series and I was barely halfway through, already dealing with the consequences.

  5. Mental health isn’t really discussed

    I still find it completely ironic that although the overall message of the series is to make others aware of social issues that negatively impact mental health and can lead to suicide, mental health isn’t really discussed. Sure, there’s a school counselor that seems to want to help but he never really talks about why he wants to, or how he expects these other children to be affected by Hannah’s death. There’s a meeting about bullying, but not about how bullying can affect mental health. Words like “depression” and “suicidal ideation” aren’t really used, just implied.

  6. Everything seems to be everyone else’s fault

    I touched on this earlier. In the series Hannah leaves behind these tapes that seem to place the blame on everyone but herself. This is really damaging to not only the mental health of others, but also really selfish. It’d be one thing if the tapes had discussed the events that’d driven her to suicide, but instead they more-or-less taunt the individuals involved. And, as I said before, in the end the person that chose to take their life made that decision themselves. They are fully responsible for making that final decision.

  7. Suicide is almost glorified or “game-like”

    This is a big topic that media outlets everywhere have been going absolutely crazy about. The series takes a tragedy like suicide, and makes it seem interesting and playful by adding this element of passing tapes around and leaving clues for people to follow. While this isn’t the fault of the producers of the show (it was in the novel), it’s still something to pay attention to. Suicide isn’t funny, it isn’t a game, and it doesn’t need to be glorified. It is a very serious matter.

  8. Parental un-involvement is normalized

    Literally everyone’s parents are oblivious. Clay’s mother tries to be involved and tries to understand what’s going on with Clay, but that’s really the only exception. Hannah’s parents try to make sense of everything after her death, but it doesn’t seem like they had any idea what Hannah was going through before she decided to end her life. Justin’s parents are practically non-existent. Where even are Bryce’s parents? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. While I must admit that not every family is perfect (I know mine isn’t), most parents try to be there for their children to some degree. They may not know exactly what is going on with their kids, but they try to be a part of their lives and understand their wants and needs for the most part.

  9. Bullying is normalized

    Bullying is real. It happens in various settings all around the world. But in this series it’s like the only thing happening. When I was in high school people were being bullied, and in some cases I knew those people and saw first-hand how it affected them. However, high school was so much more than that. It wasn’t like I walked down the hall and saw kids getting slammed into lockers, got passed sexist and foul notes in class, or got sent group texts of classmates in their underwear. That stuff just doesn’t happen, at least not as often and concentrated as the series makes it seem.

  10. Being “popular” is weighed on heavily

    While cliques are a big thing in high school, they aren’t the only things. The series made it seem like the only way to have friends and be happy was to be popular. Look at the nerdy photographer, Tyler. Even after being included in this nightmare of a situation, with all the jocks and cheerleaders, he was still seen as the outcast nerd with no friends. High school isn’t like that. Everyone has a place and purpose. I was in band in high school, but I had jock friends too. The friendship possibilities are endless.

  11. Suicide is narrowly portrayed as the only answer

    This goes along with mental health not really being discussed. Where in the show did they mention that suicide isn’t the only answer? I must have missed that. Well in case someone out there reading this really needs to hear it, suicide isn’t the only answer. Suicide really isn’t even an answer. It is a permanent “solution” to temporary problems. If you or someone that you know is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

  12. Suicide prevention might be mentioned but it isn’t taught

    In the show it seems like Hannah’s suicide was a complete surprise. However, in most cases there are signs. For example, a friend of mine that ended her life a few years ago had attempted suicide before. She had even been hospitalized for suicidal ideation. She kept a blog of poetry and photography, you can see it here. Even in her art you can tell something was going on beneath the surface. Be watchful of the warning signs, and don’t be afraid to intervene if you think it’s necessary. Sometimes people find it hard to seek help on their own, so guide them if they’ll let you. For more information on suicide prevention, check out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

  13. The school is “bad”

    On the topic of help, you can usually find it in your school. In the series the school is made out to be the bad guys, with the two-faced principal and the guidance counselor that wants to be helpful but somehow can’t get through to the students. Most schools have counselors on-staff that are available throughout the day. If you’re not sure that your school provides one, don’t be afraid to ask. If you need someone to talk to and you’re close to a teacher or coach, tell them! Don’t be afraid to open up and let someone know what is going on with you or someone that you care about. It could mean saving a life.

Now, all that being said, I don’t think that the show is necessarily a “bad” show. If you can stomach “13 Reasons Why,” by all means go for it! But take this post as a warning, it isn’t for everyone. It certainly wasn’t for me.

Much love,

20 Ways to Practice Self-Care (Today)

Self-care is so important.

I woke up feeling particularly anxious this morning. Anxiety is something I’ve been dealing with quite often recently. A great deal of it stems from trying to manage tachycardia. If you want to learn more about tachycardia and how it affects me, click here to be directed to my post Living with Tachycardia 101.

With tachycardia you already have an elevated heart rate and when you add anxiety to the mix, your heart rate increases further. So, when I start to feel anxious I focus on grounding myself as much as possible to avoid feeling exhausted and weak.

Today I’m sharing with you some super easy ways to practice self-care!

Some of these ideas are also in my post 7 Super Simple Ways to Curb Anxiety (Tonight)!

  1. Take a long bath

    For added relaxation add some Epsom salt, essential oils, or bubbles!

  2. Make a list of things you’re grateful for

    Sometimes anxiety is caused by lots of negative thoughts and emotions. This combats negative thinking. If you think of reasons to be happy and grateful, it’ll definitely make it harder to be obsessed with what you don’t like or want to change.

  3. Put on a face mask

    These are some of my favorites: Keep Your Cool by Formula 10.0.6, I’m Real Avocado Mask Sheet by Tony Moly, African Black Soap Clarifying Mud Mask by SheaMoisture.

  4. Spend time with your pet

    Cuddling with animals can reduce stress, according to various studies.

  5. Read your favorite book

    Sometimes getting your mind off of what you’re thinking about can really help to calm anxiety. Mindfully reading a book is a great way to keep your mind busy without your thoughts racing.

  6. Meditate

    Meditation is a great way to calm the mind and body. I used to meditate during anxiety attacks and it helped so much. If you can’t get into sitting in silence and meditating, you can try a guided meditation. They have a wide variety of them on YouTube and apps like Omvana.

  7. Color or draw

    Coloring and drawing are like minor forms of art therapy. They help release pent-up emotions and feelings, while calming you down with repetitive motions and distractions.

  8. Journal

    Thinking about heavy things and need an outlet? Journal. You can find journal prompts all over the internet if you need ideas to get started.

  9. Watch your favorite movie or TV show

    Like I keep saying, distraction is key! If you can get your mind off of what’s bothering you, you’ll start doing better! I like watching animated movies when I’m stressed or anxious.

  10. Diffuse essential oils

    I’ve mentioned how therapeutic essential oils can be when used properly in so many of my other posts. I am obsessed with essential oils. I’m not saying that they can cure anything and everything, but they make living so much easier.

    *If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils and their many uses let me know in the comments below! I’m thinking about making a post about how I use them!*
  11. Have a hot cup of tea

    Hot beverages are calming in general, and beverages without caffeine like herbal teas are extra calming. I like drinking chamomile tea when I’m stressed.

  12. Try yoga

    Yoga has been used for centuries to heal the mind, body, and spirit. It leaves most people feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and content. I love practicing yoga before bed, and right after I wake-up in the morning. Check out Yoga with Adriene.

  13. Take a nap

    Napping is almost like pushing “refresh” for your body. It gives you time to unwind and relax. According to various sleep studies, 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time to nap in the middle of the day.

  14. Light a candle

    A lot like using essential oils, this idea is all about grounding yourself through smell. Lighting a familiar scent can really help pull you out of any funk.

  15. Get some fresh air

    Feel like you need to run from a situation? Feel like you need to clear your head? Go take a walk outside.

  16. Call a friend or family member

    Sometimes you just need to hear a familiar voice to feel less alone. I like calling my grandma when I’m having a bad day and need someone to distract me from what’s going on in my life.

  17. De-clutter your space

    It is a known fact that the more cluttered your space is, the more cluttered your head will be. Take some time to tidy up your space when you’re feeling stressed. It’ll make a real difference.

  18. Wake-up early

    I like to wake-up as the sun is rising and watch it from my bed as it comes up. I can’t see the sun from my window, but I can see the colors in the sky changing, and watch the sunlight touch different parts of my yard as it rises. It’s relaxing and beautiful.

  19. Open your window

    This goes along with needing fresh air. Circulate some fresh air through your home by opening a window. You may even get some natural background noise such as bird chirping, the wind blowing, or (if you live in the city) cars passing.

  20. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!

    Water is so important! I drink water around the clock, but crave it especially when I’m anxious! Make yourself a tall glass of ice water, and if you have a straw handy use it! Growing up I learned that drinking through a straw can actually help to regulate your breathing when you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack.

Let me know if you try out these self-care ideas!

How do you practice self-care? Let me know in the comments below!

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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. 

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A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear thirteen year-old Jess,

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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

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