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.

untitled

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

Advertisements

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?

untitled

 

 

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,