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,

The Reality of Suddenly Being Diagnosed with an Invisible Illness

Beware: this post is deep and full of self-doubt. It isn’t about inspiration and motivation, it’s raw and honest. It’s about my greatest fears right now and my struggles. It was hard to write. I’ve written and re-written it at least five times and I’m still not completely satisfied.

 


This morning I woke up feeling fearful, and I’m not even sure of what.

Lately I’ve been feeling better, physically, than I have in the past three months. My resting heart rate has decreased to a healthy level, and has stayed there for the past two days. But, that’s not to say that it isn’t going to go back up. It most-likely will.

I’m in the process of signing up for my senior year of college classes. While most students find this somewhat stressful, I find it overwhelming. I had to leave school for the last half of my junior year, who’s to say that I won’t struggle through my first semester back? I’m scared that I’m not going to be able to jump back in the swing of things, at least not as quickly as I would like.

Right now I’m trying to find strength just to enjoy things that I used to, to drive, to carry a job, to focus.

I didn’t ask for this.

I was on the dean’s list at school, working in the Student Life office on campus, a Community Advisor in the residence halls, and an overachiever with a full schedule.

I got coffee with my friends on the weekends, planned to go hiking in the summer in the mountains, and dreamed about the adrenaline rushes I’d get exploring new places.

Fast-forward three months, and I can barely leave my bed some days.

I have Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia, a condition that won’t kill me but will make me feel “uncomfortable and “distressed (as the doctor explained it) throughout the majority of my day (Click here to read more about my diagnosis).

The reality of being diagnosed with an invisible illness, is everything seems to happen suddenly.

Suddenly I can’t do the things I used to. Multitasking on projects suddenly stresses me out. Walking around feels like running; I exhaust myself just taking a shower or brushing my teeth. When I talk fast and excited, my heart begins to race and suddenly I can’t breathe. So I have to pause doing things where I never had to pause before.

I was a lover of public speaking. A few days before my first trip to the hospital with tachycardia, I gave a presentation. I remember feeling out of breath, overly anxious, almost light-headed. I don’t get like that. I love talking in front of large audiences, it’s like a tiny adrenaline rush with every presentation and speech. My body can’t handle those little adrenaline rushes anymore, not right now.

I keep thinking to myself:

What happens when I have to do a presentation and I can’t stand or speak for long periods of time? What happens when I get stressed about a test and faint?

I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t know this was going to happen.

I’m trying to take every day step by step. But, some days it’s just so increasingly difficult to balance life and living with having this illness.

The reality of being diagnosed with an invisible illness, is that a lot of people aren’t going to take it seriously and sometimes you’re going to doubt yourself.

Since being diagnosed with IST, it’s been suggested that I’m lazy, spoiled, mentally unstable, incapable of handling stress, etc. The people who say these things range from friends, family, and at one point… even my significant other. While they aren’t wrong in all aspects, stress is hard for me to handle right now, these things aren’t the cause of my problems. It still blows my mind that after being put through medical testing spanning over a three-month time period, being diagnosed with a heart condition by a medical specialist, and sharing my story through social media and Living with Spunk, some people have the audacity to suggest that my illness isn’t real. It’s very real. I have to deal with the very real consequences of living with it every day.

Everyone seems to “know” what you need except for you. All of a sudden your friends and family are trying to be your doctors, advisors, and support system.

After hearing these things, you sort of begin to doubt yourself as well.

I doubt my ability to do a lot of things now, things that I loved doing before.

The reality of being diagnosed with an invisible illness is, some days are worse than others.

You find yourself starting to distrust the good days, because you already know that another bad one is around the corner. Which, honestly sucks.

I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy the good days, because I try to make the most of them. But it’s also hard to recognize that the way I feel on a good day, isn’t going to last forever.

It’s hard not to be hopeful that it’ll lead you back into good health. I’m an optimist.

But, unfortunately so far, that hasn’t been the case. Not for me.

I still have bad days.

They’re getting easier to deal with, so it seems, but they haven’t magically disappeared like I wish they would.

The reality of being diagnosed with an invisible illness is, you’re going to face anxiety about your situation.

I’ve always been an anxious person. It runs in my family, and we all have varying degrees of it. But I’ve always been able to understand and control how it affects me. It seems like all of a sudden, since about a week before the episode of tachycardia that first landed me in the hospital, I just can’t control it like I used to.

I still follow some of the same rules that I have in the past when it comes to dealing with anxiety, like avoiding caffeine, sticking to herbal teas, using essential oils, doing yoga when I can, and challenging maladaptive thoughts, but it doesn’t really cut it anymore. These things still help, don’t get me wrong. But certainly not the degree that they used to.

Having a hypersensitive heart means that the slightest bit of anxiety can cause a panic. Oddly enough, sometimes if I get too excited about something, it sets off a panic attack. It’s like my body can’t handle it.

For example, a few weeks ago I was in the process of trying to catch a stray cat to give it a new home. Well the night that we finally got the cat I was over-the-moon excited, so excited in fact that I experienced an adrenaline rush that led to shaking, crying, and ultimately a really bad panic attack.

It’s unfair.

I keep finding myself in situations where I’m having a full-blown panic attack for what feels like no reason.

But the more it happens, the easier the attacks are to get through (kind of like everything).

The reality of being diagnosed with an invisible illness is, you may not know if you’ll ever feel the way you used to.

I don’t necessarily know that any of my symptoms are going to go away. They could, for sure. But when? Why? How? A big problem with IST is that no one really knows what causes it, how long it will last, or exactly why it ranges in severity from person to person.

They know that some people have triggers, but it still varies from person to person.

For instance, if I eat after about 8:15pm I typically experience worse symptoms first thing in the morning. If I don’t sleep well, I experience worse symptoms the whole day.

I keep wondering:

Is this affecting my quality of life, and to what degree?

It’s a lot of trying to find acceptance in this new and unfamiliar you. Which has been particularly hard for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine.

I’m obviously not in the best shape of my life. I’ve had good days and bad days, great days and terrible days, but I’m making it.

I don’t want you guys to read this and think that everything is terrible, that I hate my life, or that I’m unhappy.

Because, I’m not. The good days make up for the bad ones, even the really bad ones. The people in my life make up for a lot, and the memories that we make together mean everything to me right now.

But I do want you guys to read this and realize that invisible illnesses are just as real as others. If you’re a sufferer of one, read this and know you aren’t alone. If you don’t have an invisible illness, just read it and try to understand what it’s like to have one. Invisible illnesses seem impossible to understand, until you’re diagnosed with one… and I hope you never are.

Everything happens for a reason.

Even if we can’t understand the reasoning.

Remember that, and hold onto it.
That’s what really gets me through the bad days.

Thanks for reading.

Xoxo,