Bloom

Showing off some of my writing and art journaling. I started a web portfolio for it , although it only currently has two posts, including this. I just want to share my newest creative adventure! Enjoy!

Mental Health Tell All: My Story

*To preface my story: this is in no way supposed to be a sob story or asking for sympathy, it is simply a piece to tell my story and educate people about the truth of living with mental illness for your entire life. It is a conversation starter and a beacon of hope.*

I never thought anything was wrong, I thought this was how everyone thought and acted. It never really crossed my mind at six years old that I was different. My friends all chalked it down to me being me, not that I was weird or “sick”.

I was a pretty laid back baby and toddler; I slept all the time and ate anything you put in front of me. I laughed, I was social, people liked me. When I was in Kindergarten, we went to have dinner with family for a birthday or something of the sort. I ate chicken fingers. That night I came down with a stomach bug of sorts. I decided it was because of the food. After that, I wouldn’t want to step foot in a restaurant; my parents tell me that when we would walk across the parking lot holding my hand, I would start to sweat and stand in place, refusing to go in. Since I was five, I was forced in anyway. But I would avoid chicken fingers like the plague.

Soon after that, I started washing my hands excessively to rid myself of germs so I wouldn’t throw up. That was the big fear: vomit. It didn’t even have to be mine, because if I was near it I was convinced I would catch whatever made that person sick. I wouldn’t use the bathroom at school, or any public place. I would pump the soap three times rinse and repeat ten times. Then I would wash the backs of my legs where they touched the toilet, because the toilet is full of germs that could make me sick, so I had to do everything in my power to stop that.

My parents soon saw how chaped my legs and hands were and started to take me to various doctors to see what was wrong. I had no clue what was happening. At this point I was probably six years old, and didn’t know your mind could be sick. I was finally diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, more commonly known as OCD. That still didn’t register with me, so my new therapist described it as a bully in my head that was making me do things that I didn’t want or need to do “or else”. We started Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and I was reluctantly put on Prozac (my parents were initially against it, but was told by a psychologist that I was suffering and medicine would improve how I was feeling and acting, so they decided to put me on it because they couldn’t bear knowing that more could be done to help me).

Something that I have always been afraid of, besides vomit, was failure. In first grade and into second grade, I  had a compulsion where I would rub spit on a place where a misbehaved kid touched me. I don’t really know the reasoning behind the spit; I guess it was to clean the bad with good? I needed so badly to be recognized as this amazing person and to have approval from authority, so I needed to separate myself from the bad kids in every way possible. I was (am) worried about the future, and I didn’t want to be…well a fuck-up, to be blunt.

Another compulsion that popped up was based on an old superstition: throwing salt over your left shoulder after you spill it, or else you’ll have bad luck. Of course, I couldn’t have that, so everytime I dropped something, I threw it over my left shoulder. Also anytime I made fists, I had to unfurl them over my left shoulder.

Once I was sick, like vomit sick, and said that the nausea went on and off. So I would alert my parents that I was nauseous by saying that I was “on”. That continued well after the illness went away, because, for some reason I thought it would prevent throwing up. I find that a lot of my OCD goes in opposites, kind of like jinxes. So if I say I won’t get sick, I will and vise versa. So I would constantly tell my parents “I’m on” to try to reverse psychology the universe. I was that way with a lot of my compulsions, come to think of it. I would say up (as in throw up) every time I said down, and I had and still have mantras I say in attempts to ward off “bad things”.

That’s the whole point of OCD, though, it’s to prevent bad things from happening. And people who have it find ways to do that through compulsions made from small connections to their “bad things”. I worked, and still work, in therapy to overcome these compulsions. We do exposure therapy and lots and lots of CBT. We delay the compulsion, we change it to be different every time so it doesn’t stick, we work at the root of the fear to help see why this won’t prevent anything, we also do something called “junk thoughts vs. facts” where we would list the thought, the “junk thought” and refute it with the facts. I always hated this as a kid, but I try to do it everyday now with both OCD and general anxiety.

Too many people think OCD is about being clean and organized, which it can be, but there’s an intense fear of something bad happening that’s attached to it that makes it OCD. It’s my pet peeve when people go “I like to be organized, I’m so OCD about it”. They don’t realize the depth of the disorder, they just prefer to be organized, they don’t have to be or else they will be paralyzed with fear of impending doom. I try to point this out to people, but I just end up looking like an ass.

As I got older, I started to develop more generalized anxiety. I had my first panic attack when I was eight on the Spanish Steps in Rome. Too many people, too much noise, too overwhelming. I started to become less social, more focused on doing well in school. I had two or three key friends by fifth grade, compared to the fifteen or so in Kindergarten. I worried more and more about the future, especially watching my older brother grow up, and do things that I would soon have to do. In middle school, I developed social anxiety based on self esteem issues, but that’s quite common at that age. I wasn’t able to talk to new people, I wasn’t able to give a class presentation without stuttering, sweating, crying, or all of the above.

The self esteem issues then stemmed into body dysmorphia. I was in seventh grade (I think? Either that or sixth), and I was at my yearly doctor’s physical. They weighed me and told me I was 103 pounds. I flipped. I thought that was way too much, even though I  would kill to weigh that now. My poor self esteem and OCD teamed up to make me anorexic. I would only eat dinner, and I would eat less than half of it. I would do upwards of 150 sit ups, twice a day. I would do any kind of exercise I could do. By eighth grade I was 80 pounds. Before this, I had stopped going to therapy for a while, because, at the time, I was stable. My parents didn’t realize the depth of it until my physiatrist talked to me and weighed me. I went back to therapy, ate a bunch of sweets and gained the weight back, and then some. I was resistant to gaining weight at first, but I was told of all the health risks and I started to panic. Also, my therapist is super strict with that so I knew I had to.

I still have similar type thoughts to those I had when I was anorexic. I think about restricting my eating, and I get really uncomfortable when I see something in the mirror that I don’t like. Luckily, but not luckily, I don’t have the restraint I did back then to not eat (and eating healthy is hard when you’re a picky eater). And most days, as of right now, I am feeling ok with my body. Would I like to drop a few? Yes, but I won’t go to unhealthy lengths to do so.

Eighth grade into Freshman year of highschool were my lows. My brother had started looking at and applying to colleges. I was sad to see such a constant and loved part of my life leave me. However, I started analyzing myself. I realized I had no idea what I wanted to do (who does in eighth grade?) and that I probably wasn’t smart enough for an Ivy League school if my brother wasn’t either (I placed a lot of personal worth in being smart, so not going to an Ivy was a hard pill to swallow). I hate(d) the unknown and was rushing toward college before I had even started high school.

Ninth grade starts, I’m in all AP or honors courses. The social and academic stress starts to get to me. I have panic attacks daily, and leave school most days. I started self harming, because I felt I deserved it for being weak, or not doing well in class, or just because I generally hated myself. I was extremely depressed; all I wanted to do was sleep, because I didn’t want to deal with life and I started isolating, without realizing it, even though what I needed most in my life was people. I would have a meltdown every school night because I couldn’t bear the thought of going.

At one point I had posted something online that was vaguely hinting toward a plan of suicide. My closest friend at the time caught wind of it and told her guidance counselor. We had the same first period: studio art. One day she wasn’t there, which I found fishy since she was always there. Then the classroom phone rang. My heart dropped and I knew then what was going on. I was summoned to the guidance office where my friend, her guidance counselor, my guidance counselor, and my mom had gathered. She was telling me how worried she was, then my mom did the same, but said she didn’t know how serious it was. I never really talked about my suicidal ideation out loud before, so how was she to know. All she saw was anxiety.

It was decided that I would be pulled out of school and participate in an outpatient program at the nearest mental hospital. At that point, I was apathetic and didn’t really care what happened next. So, I spent all of November 2013, my freshman year of highschool, at a mental facility. To this day, I don’t know how many people or who knew where I was, and I don’t care to. I don’t want their sympathy that’s really only a formality, when they’re really thinking that they didn’t realize that I was that crazy.

I came back to school, not feeling all that different. We eased me back, going the first four periods one day, and the second four the next. I had to drop all my honors and AP courses because I was just too far behind, and the stress of trying to catch up was not ideal at the time. I was really down on myself for that, because I wasn’t appearing as smart and now would DEFINITELY not get into an Ivy League. There was a program at my school for kids around the county with learning disabilities. They had their own classes and counseling department. I only used the latter, but I was also helped by one of the aides. She helped me catch up and stay on top of work. She helped me calm down from anxiety and panic attacks. She was my savior. This program also helped me get 504 or IEP accommodations in school , meaning I was legally identified with a disability and was entitled to certain tools to help me succeed with my education. I can still use it in college, which is great.

Throughout the rest of high school I was kind of a loner, sitting quietly in the front of class, going to the library for lunch. Most of my friends at the time went to a different school. That didn’t matter though, because they would end up ditching me because I was too sad. That’s a long and complicated story, but basically, I was a bummer to be around, so they stopped inviting me places or responding when I invited them places. It blew up from there and I had pretty much no friends going into my junior year.

I was starting to get a better handle on things at that time, though. I was becoming more confident and less anxious. I made a friend or two in my classes. I started working towards college, which we never thought would happen just two years before. I made amends with one of the girls who dissed me because we had a class together senior year and started to reminisce and realize how much fun we were together. I got accepted to nine of the eleven colleges I applied to, and waitlisted at the other two. Ultimately, I decided to pursue fashion at the University of Delaware.

My first year at UD was good and bad. I made a lot of progress with anxiety, made some good friends, and even joined a sorority, which I never in a million years thought I would do. I also failed my first class, did subpar in the rest, had a witch of a professor who threw me into a minor depressive episode. But, it was good enough that I wanted to come back!

I’m still learning and growing and figuring out how to deal with my issues. As long as you work hard and have a good support system, you’ll get there. There’s hope, there’s always hope. You just have to ride the wave, and then you’ll be where you need to be. You can live a happy and fulfilling life with mental illness, it’s 100% possible. Please let my tale inspire you to achieve your dreams, or help out a loved one in need.

Remember: there’s no flowers without the rain.

Life Is Always Nicer In My Head

I get through life with daydreams. It eliminates that empty feeling I seem to always have, at least for a little bit. I use it to pass the time, to fill the void of what I don’t have, or just to try to fall asleep. I put myself at the place in life where I want to be, and sometimes a place I will never be, instead of where I am.

I know that my excessive daydreaming is probably hurting me more than it is helping me, but it’s just so tempting, you know? To escape real life and live and actively control your fake life? Soooo much better. Sometimes it gives me hope for what life can be, sometimes it makes me sad that I know life will never be that way.

I dream that I tour with bands as their photographer, I dream that I am a great and prolific writer, I dream that I have a successful fashion label, I dream that I meet amazing people along the way that become like family, and so, so much more.

I’ve always had my head in the clouds. I remember daydreaming as a kid, thinking about what I wanted high school to be like (it was definitely NOT what I wanted it to be), what I wanted college and even after to be like. I was, and am, always looking ahead. I’m never really present, I’m always thinking about what comes next, even if “next” means retirement. I think my daydreaming is almost a way of soul searching what I really want in life. I don’t know what I’m looking for specifically, I just know something is missing, and that is why I daydream.

I’ve had a progression of different jobs in these dreams, a progression of relationships and locations. The one thing that remains constant, though, is that I am truly happy and my mental health is in check. I’m not in over my head, or depressed in any way, or ultra stressed. I’m carefree, confident, and happy in all aspects, which has always been my ultimate goal, I guess.

I know it’s not likely that I’ll be a famous photographer or writer, I know it’s not likely that I’ll style celebrities, or have a perfect fairytale love story. But I dream about it anyway. I guess it’s all just wishful thinking, but it makes life worth living, in the sense that life can be that great if everything falls into place just right. Even the mundane things I dream about, such as having a short conversation with a certain person, give me hope. Although it is usually followed by disappointment, it just means to me that I have to pick myself up and try again, and try again harder. Even if I never get there, I will always know I gave it my best effort.

I wish daydreaming had some power to put my desires into the universe and make them reality, but for now I’m just a broke college girl who has no clue what’s actually going to happen next.

 

The Power of a Day

Written at 3am, inspired by this tumblr post

June 26, 2014

I’ve hit an all time low. Today was the day I was supposed to empty the medicine cabinet into my stomach and perish, until my plans were foiled. Now I’m sitting in a cinderblock walled, prison-like room in a psych hospital, wondering how I’ll ever come back from this.

June 26, 2017

I’m finally graduating from hell aka high school. While everyone’s looking at the post four years through rose colored glasses, I’m saying good riddance. I have the opportunity to start fresh this fall, reinvent myself. I’ve picked a great school and have a hefty scholarship. I’m going to achieve my dream of being a fashion journalist, I just know it.

June 26, 2018

I’m starting to get discouraged about achieving my dreams. No jobs or internships would accept me, or even respond to me. So now I’m stuck working retail until god knows when. The only plus side is my boyfriend, Josh. We met in March and have been inseparable. Luckily he lives within a 20 minute drive from home. He’s my silver lining.

June 26, 2020

Got my first internship, FINALLY. I’ll be blogging and boosting content for Refinery 29. I’m so so so excited to get one step closer to my dream. Josh is shadowing a therapist this summer. We’ve been taking our lunch break together at random trendy places we find online. It’s the best part of my day. I’m a lucky woman.

June 26, 2021

Time flies! I’m graduating college, leaving some amazing years behind. Now I know how everyone felt at high school graduation. I’m excited for what the future holds. My internship at Refinery 29 turned into a job offer! Starting in August, I’ll be writing articles for the site and featured in vlogs and product trial videos. Josh is going to grad school at NYU, while also working a research job in nyc, so he’ll be close. We’re planning on getting an apartment in Brooklyn when we can afford it.

June 26, 2023

I thought I’d never feel this low again. Josh’s younger sister, Carrie, who I’ve grown really close with over the years, has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I’m treasuring every moment I have with her. I can’t believe she’ll be gone. Life’s a bitch, huh. Just when everything was going well-got promoted, got an apartment with the love of my life, have amazing travel plans-something has to go wrong.

June 26, 2025

Josh just graduated grad school as valedictorian. I’m extremely proud of all he’s accomplished. He has a job lined up at a practice not to far from the apartment. He’ll be working with kids and teens. He’s the kind of person I needed when I was fourteen and suicidal. He’ll save so many young lives. I recently got invited to a show at New York fashion week to document for the website. I am beyond blessed.

June 26, 2027

I’ve been waiting for this day for almost ten years; I’m getting married to Josh! We planned (with A LOT of help) a beautiful wedding. I wish Carrie were here to see it. She’s the one who predicted we’d get married the first time I met her all those years ago. I’m convinced she’s been watching over us and making sure she was right, and I’m glad she was.

June 26, 2031

After nine months, we finally get to meet our daughter. Pregnancy and birth are hard work, but well worth it. Blair is beautiful and healthy and I can’t wait to watch her grow into a beautiful and strong woman. Josh is a natural father; I love seeing him obsess over her.

June 26, 2036

There’s been an accident. My sister was driving late last night and was hit on the drivers side by a drunk driver. She is alive, but in critical condition. They say she’ll eventually be ok, but she’ll might never walk again. I’d take a paralyzed sister over a dead sister any day.

June 26, 2047

It’s our 20th wedding anniversary, and our love is a strong as ever. Blair is sixteen and learning how to drive. Frankly, I’m terrified to have her on the road, but aren’t all parents? I’m just paranoid after what happened to my sister ten years ago. The doctors were right, she recovered fine, besides her ability to walk. Her wife has been really supportive and was her saving grace through the whole process.

June 26, 2070

We’ve retired very comfortably this year. We moved to the west coast to enjoy the weather and to be close to Blair. She’s been working in LA as a celebrity stylist for quite some time now. I’m so proud of my little girl. Even though life seemed bleak at times, there was always a shred of hope that got me to where I am, and I couldn’t be more thankful.