Life

Hi and updates :)

Hi, sorry (again) for being away from wordpress for a few months! I don’t really have a good excuse lol, I guess just that school was busy. Don’t count on me to be reliable!

Good news! I GRADUATED COLLEGE!!! 🙂 🙂 Woo hoo!! This is very exciting! I am proud of this because it really was a LOT of hard work, and I struggled a lot during that time. There were many times that I wanted to drop out, or thought I would fail… but I didn’t! I got through it all!!

I have gotten to celebrate with family and friends, which was very nice. 🙂

I was living on campus this past semester, and I am now living back at home with my family again. The transition is hard, and I don’t really want to be at home. I was having a lot of fun with my friends in person, and people were only just starting to get vaccinated, when I had to leave it all behind. I’m sad and angry about that.

My plan is to get a job or internship for this summer. I don’t have one yet. I didn’t end up taking that job that I wrote about earlier.

I had a pretty good semester, actually. One of my best. My social life, grades, interest in classes, independence, and mental health were all probably the best they’ve been out of all my semesters. This makes it even more sad and frustrating that I had to leave. I was really doing so well. It also makes me sad for all the time on campus that I lost due to covid.

The only major bad thing about this semester is that my health issues continue to worsen. My joint pain is still bad. My hands were hurting to the point that I didn’t want to / couldn’t take notes in class for the first time because of the pain. Dancing was difficult. My doctor thinks my gut/abdomen issues could be endometriosis. I had to go to the ER once. But I’m getting things checked out. I’m going to try a hormonal birth control for the reproductive system issues and hope it doesn’t make me depressed.

I think those are all my updates. 🙂 I will try to be a little more present on wordpress…

This is supposed to be me graduating! 🙂 My school’s colors are not pink and purple haha, I wish!
Life

Happy Covid-versary?

Note: this post talks about covid-19 and quarantine. There is a description of blood and a brief mention of suicidality.

My “covid-versary” is March 13th. Friday, March 13th, 2020, was the day the pandemic changed my day-to-day life. That’s when I left school and moved back home with my family, where I stayed for 10 months straight, before coming back to campus this January for my senior spring.

I remember the day I left really well. It was a bad day in the middle of a bad week, and I was having other major problems that weren’t related to covid. I had had my period for five weeks straight. I was dizzy from a lack of blood. I went to the gynecologist (my last trip out and last doctor appointment for a long time) at the start of that week. She gave me a birth control pill to take to stop my period. It made me suicidal. I stopped taking it.

Then on Friday I moved out. I had to pack everything up very quickly. (note: blood) I got a bloody nose, and it dripped blood on my shirt (one of my favorite shirts!), and I remember feeling like there was blood coming out from all over me, because I was also still having the other bleeding. It was also Friday the 13th, which is supposed to be unlucky, although I’m trying to not be superstitious anymore because it’s not a healthy way for me to think.

I was lucky that I got to say good goodbyes to all my friends. I was taking the coronavirus much more seriously than my friends seemed to think it would be. So I really did say goodbye to my friends thinking I may never see them again. I spent the whole day with them while I was packing up (they weren’t leaving…yet), and I got to give them all long hugs. I’m really glad that I did. Now that I’m back on campus this semester, and some other people are, too, I’ve gotten to see some friends in person, but there are some people that I still haven’t seen in person since that day, and I truly don’t know if I’ll ever see them in person again, since we’re graduating now and going in different directions.

It’s funny to me (and very unfortunate) that a lot of my predictions actually came true. I think it’s because trauma has taught me that bad things can happen and they can be really bad, and my friends, I guess, didn’t really know that. When we got the announcement that classes were cancelled, my friends cheered for no school. I was horrified. I knew that if things were bad enough to cancel classes, they must be really bad. My friend tried to calm me down by saying that the death rate was “only 5%.” That is a huge percentage, and so many people have died this year, because 5% of a large population is a lot of people. My friends might have thought I was making too big a deal out of saying goodbyes, and that I was being overly cautious by going home… but those ended up being good things to do. I wish the worst hadn’t happened, but it did.

I remember wondering to my friends if we would forget what “normal” life was like, and them having an attitude of, “no, of course we’ll remember it, this won’t last long.” And then just today I saw an article in the Atlantic about all the people that are forgetting what pre-pandemic life was like.

Some things seem to have permanently changed in my life. One is zoom, and also google meet and FaceTime. It’s really useful for staying connected to people in other places, and for…everything. I think classes will (or at least, should) continue to offer online attendance as an option even when it’s safe to go back to classrooms. It does make it easier for me to attend, but there’s also a lot that I miss out on by not being in the classroom, like having side conversations with friends.

Another change is that I now go on a walk basically every day. And I have been doing this now for almost a year. This is strange to me; I can’t imagine a pre-walking life anymore. I didn’t see walking as an activity, a social thing, a form of exercise, or a fun thing before quarantine. I only saw it as a way of getting from one place to another, and I only walked if I had somewhere to go. Now I do it all the time, just to walk for fun, not to go anywhere. It helps my muscles/joints, it lets me get out in nature and out of my room (very important!), and it is a (relatively) safe way to see someone in person.

I feel like a lot of people talk about how their health has been impacted by the pandemic, but this hasn’t really happened for me that much. My physical health has gotten much worse and also better during the pandemic, and so has my mental health. I had some really bad times, physically and mentally, at the end of the summer, and again in the middle of the fall. But now I’m doing possibly the best, mentally, that I’ve been in years (not 100%, but better!). And physically it’s a mixed bag right now. My health does not seem to be directly correlated with the pandemic.

Anyway… it’s been a year.

Coping Skills

Coping with justified sadness

Note: this post talks about death and mentions brain injuries, a car accident, and bodily functions. Note 2: this post was written and edited over a couple years, so some examples from my life were written at different times. 

My DBT skills book gives suggestions of what to do when an emotion is justified (i.e. it fits the facts of a situation). However, I don’t really like what it suggests for sadness and would like to add on to it.

Sadness is justified when something important is lost or missing. When sadness is more intense, it is often a signal that the thing lost was very important. For example, sadness is justified when a loved one dies, when your life is not what you expected it would be, when you realize a parent has not really been a parent, and in many more situations.

The DBT book (DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan) suggests the following (on p. 243):

  1. Grieve; have a memorial service; visit the cemetery (but don’t build a house at the cemetery).
  2. Retrieve/replace what is lost.
  3. Plan how to rebuild a life worth living without the beloved or expected outcomes in your life.
  4. Accumulate positives.
  5. Build mastery: Do things that make you feel competent and self-confident.
  6. Communicate need for help.
  7. Accept help offered.
  8. Put on rose-colored glasses.

I would like to add on some other things:

1. Radically accept that this is the way it is now.

Change starts with accepting the reality of now so that you can identify what is wrong.

Example 1

For example, my uncle and grandmother passed away in January 2019. I cannot change the fact that they are gone. I am still sad, and my family feels very small all of a sudden.

Example 2

Another sad thing that I’m working on radically accepting is that my dad had a brain injury after our car accident. He is more easily angered now than he was before the accident. He is forgetful and often repeats himself without realizing it. He forgot to pick me up from school (back when I was in high school). He forgets important personal information that I have told him about my life, like what classes I’m taking (despite the fact that I FaceTimed my family every day when I was at college and talked about my classes all the time), what I’m majoring in, and that I have dietary restrictions.

In family therapy, I had long conversations with him and my mom about what information they were allowed to disclose to their friends about my mental health and treatment. My dad broke our agreements several times, telling several almost-strangers that I was in a partial hospital program and that I was depressed. Despite reminders and more discussions after these incidents, he has continued to breach our agreement. He seemed to be genuinely confused and thought that he was following the agreement. Regardless of the reason for all this, I’ve decided I can’t trust him with personal information anymore. This is sad to me because I’d like to have more of a relationship with him, and due to his brain injury and other pre-existing problems, that relationship is missing.

Example 3

On perhaps a smaller scale, another thing I’m radically accepting is that this summer [note: I wrote this part in summer 2019, but some of it applies to summer 2020, too] hasn’t been what I wanted it to be. I didn’t get an internship. I’m living at home when I’d rather be living with my friends near my school. I haven’t seen many friends this summer — they’re all off in different places. Despite working so hard on my ptsd, I’m still depressed. This is the way it is right now.

2. Mourn and grieve by expressing through art

People have told me that it’s okay to grieve, but I haven’t heard many examples of how to actually do this. The DBT book isn’t very specific with this, either, apart from the suggestions of holding a memorial service and visiting the cemetery. I sometimes find myself full of valid, justified sadness and I don’t know what to do with the emotion. 

One thing I’ve found that I can do is to express myself: express what I’m feeling, what has happened, where I’m at. And one way to do that, for me, is through drawing or art. It helps me see things visually/spatially and make sense of them a bit. 

Example 1

I drew this when I was feeling sad in the weeks after my uncle and grandmother died. 

IMG_2992

My drawing of people walking around and being sucked into a black, spiraling hole, with this quote around the edges: “Where you used to be there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling into at night.” -Edna St. Vincent Millay

Example 2

Due to digestive issues, I can’t eat many of my favorite foods. I drew the foods I miss most on gravestones. Seeing them like this makes me laugh a bit and also reminds me that I am grieving the loss of my favorite foods. It is a loss. Even though it doesn’t affect me as much as the deaths in my family, it makes me sad. I really do miss these foods. 

IMG_5302

My drawing of chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, pasta with tomato sauce, and brownies on gravestones

Example 3

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was struggling with all the death. The news kept talking about so many people dying. And someone died close to where I live in a violent way that got in the news. Then my mom’s friend’s father died of Covid. To try to process these deaths, I made a little house/box thing. I wanted to do something using my hands. I made steps going up to it. Inside, I made chairs and wrote “House of Mourning.” I cut out people and wrote the appropriate names on them, and I sat them down on the chairs inside the house.

Now they have a place to go, even if it’s only their name on a paper version of them in a paper house. It makes me feel better. It’s a way of acknowledging their deaths. I acknowledge that they have transitioned from living to dead by physically placing them in the house. There are chairs there; it’s a nice place to be. Since I’m not religious right now (and haven’t been for the past couple of years), it’s kind-of a non-religious alternative to the comforting belief that the deceased are happy up in heaven with the other people who have died. It’s a way of making sense of it and processing it. 

I’ve also placed some other things (not people) in my House of Mourning. I just wrote them on pieces of paper and put them in the house. They are: my dad not acting how I want him to as a dad; loss of certainty; and summer 2020 in the place I wanted to live this summer with my friends. When I write them out and put them in the house, I acknowledge that I am mourning them. 

IMG_0313

The paper house of mourning I made with people and things inside

3. Identify smaller qualities or aspects of the big thing that is lost or missing, and then problem-solve to see how you could put them back in your life.

When something important is lost or missing, there is usually some sort of underlying need that is no longer being filled. I know that you can’t replace a person, and it makes me feel a little disgusted to think of trying to do that. That’s not what this is, though. It’s just making sure that you’re still getting the things that you need and finding ways you can still live a life worth living without the important thing in it.

Example 1

For example, I’ve had to stop eating a lot of foods that I really like due to acid reflux. I can’t eat chocolate or dairy, so that eliminates most desserts. It was especially bad in the summer [2019] when I really craved ice cream and everyone around me was eating it. I can’t eat tomatoes, which eliminates a lot of pasta options and tomato soup. There are so many foods I can’t eat, but I don’t feel like listing them all. This may seem like not as big a deal as some other things, but it really does make me sad that I can’t eat my favorite foods anymore, and I’ve decided I’m grieving this, and I’m going to let myself actually be sad instead of invalidating my sadness. (note: bodily functions) I have tried to eat these foods again and have had diarrhea for two days afterwards each time. Thats no fun! 

So, I’ve been trying to think of what, exactly, is missing and how I can replace it. I think what’s really missing are good, sweet foods for a special treat or occasion. It’s taken me some time to come up with good replacements, but I’ve found that sugar cookies are delicious and edible to me. Peanut butter cookies are also good. My mom made me a carrot cake (with sugar icing, not cream icing) for my birthday. I can eat lollipops, smarties, lifesavers, and butterscotch instead of chocolate when I want candy.

Another thing that’s missing is the social connection from eating foods together [pre-pandemic]. I have to say no to offers of many foods, and it makes me sad to not be able to connect with my friends over liking good food. I haven’t come up with a solution to this one yet. I guess we can still enjoy other things together. 

Example 2

With my grandmother and uncle gone, and no grandparents left at all, one of the things I’m missing is some older person who will check in with me every now and then about casual things / general life stuff and be kind-of protective and warm. One of my aunts (the one that didn’t lose her husband (my uncle)) has kind of stepped into this role on her own. She called me last January [2019] after the deaths and left me a very kind voice mail message when I really needed it, and even said I didn’t need to call her back. She visited me at school and made sure we took pictures. She sent me an article she thought I would like. She’s more of a part of my life now than she was before all the deaths. I think that that awful time has brought my remaining family closer.

Another issue is that my family feels very small now. It doesn’t feel like there are enough people in it. One way I can make it bigger is by getting married. This is a long-term goal. I’ve never even dated someone. But it’s nice to know that there is a way that families naturally grow. People die, and families shrink. People get married or are in long-term relationships, and the partner and partner’s family are added to the family. Babies are born or kids/babies are adopted, and families grow. I’m not ready to get married right now, but it’s nice to know that I can someday and bring more people into my family’s network. 

4. Allow for time for sadness AND time for other things

Sometimes sadness and grief can be overwhelming. It can easily consume my whole evening, if not my whole day, or week. Sometimes that is not helpful. I say sometimes because sadness serves an important function, too. Sadness makes people ruminate, which can be helpful because people can process things and realize what they are missing. Sadness can also encourage people to try to get the things they are missing. Studies have shown that sadness can improve memory, judgement, motivation to get the missing things, and social attentiveness (source). Other studies have shown that depression can make people more analytical and allow people to gain insight to their problems (source).

But, it’s generally not good for me to be sad, grieving, or depressed all day. There are generally still things I need to do, like eating, cleaning, talking to people, going to appointments, or going to school. 

Example 1: 20 minutes of sadness a day

A therapist I used to have suggested I do “20 minutes of sadness a day.” I was supposed to set a time, like 4 pm, when I planned on being sad. And then when that time came, I tried to not push away the sadness and let myself be sad. I tried to “ride the wave.” Sometimes I cried. It was useful to take the time to acknowledge the sadness. It’s similar to having a “worry time” where you dedicate time to worrying so that you don’t have to worry during the rest of the day. It is more contained. 

The hardest part about this for me was stopping being sad and moving on when the time was up and my alarm went off. I was supposed to use opposite action (because sadness is valid and justified but not effective in this moment), but I normally had a hard time getting out of bed and would just keep lying there for an hour. I think it would have been better if I had tried having 20 minutes of sadness while sitting up, instead of lying down, and for less time, so that I didn’t get overwhelmed by the sadness. 

The general idea behind 20 minutes of sadness can be altered a lot. It could be any amount of time, even a few seconds to just acknowledge the sadness that is there. I prefer just doing “STUN waves,” noticing my sadness come and go, acknowledging it, and validating it. It could also be in any form. People could write in a journal, talk or write to a missing person, pray, make art, meditate, do any of the ideas above, etc.

It’s important for me to allow for time for sadness and then also acknowledge that other things may need to be done. I can temporarily move on from the sadness, knowing that I will come back to it later and am not ignoring or forgetting about it. 

In contrast to feeling the sadness, I try to identify positive things. Oftentimes, things are not all bad. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by sadness and forget everything else. Trying to make an effort to notice good things, like sunsets or flowers, can be helpful. I also try to add enjoyable things into my days using DBT’s “Accumulating Positives” skill. I make plans to do things like hang out with friends, watch a good movie, and take some time to do art. These things can also help with opposite action when I am trying to come away from the sadness and back into the rest of my life. It helps to have plans to hang out with friends, do other fun things, or just to notice the positives after having my sad time.

Sometimes happy things make me sad. Maybe someone I miss isn’t here to enjoy this with me, or I used to be able to do x fun thing but now I can’t because of illness. If they make me sad, that’s okay, too. I acknowledge that and let my joyful memories turn blue with sadness. 

Screen Shot 2021-02-10 at 03.22.11

Sadness turning joyful, yellow memories blue. (screenshot from Isaac Carlson’s video “Why Does Sadness Turn Memories Blue? | Pixar Theory: Discovering Inside Out,” originally from Pixar’s movie Inside Out.)

Example 2: Grieving periods

Some religions have set grieving periods. In Judaism, during the first week after a funeral, the shiva, people mourning are allowed to withdraw from life, and their needs are met by the community (people bring them food, etc.). In the next phase of mourning, sheloshim, people gradually return back to “normal life.” I have a couple friends that are Jewish and have followed this process of mourning after a death, and it seems to have been a good way for them to take time to process their grief. I think that taking some time off work/school, or even just giving yourself a break to allow yourself to grieve (any loss, not just death) can be helpful, too. Gradually returning to activities is an important part of it, too. It is “moving forward,” not “moving on.” 


So, these are my strategies for how to cope with justified sadness. 1) Radically accept that this is the way it is now. 2) Mourn and grieve, maybe by expressing things through art. 3) Identify smaller qualities or aspects of the big thing that is lost or missing, and then problem-solve to see how you could put them back in your life. 4) Set aside time to feel sad, and time to focus on other things. They seem to be helping me.

How do you deal with sadness?

Life, Positives

Trauma is in the past and I feel great and am making good decisions!

Note: there is some mention of cults and bodily functions

I am strangely doing really well overall. I feel emotionally healthy. I am making really good, wise-mind decisions.

I actually applied to a job and had two rounds of interviews and was offered the job!! It is very exciting! But there are also some things that didn’t feel quite right to me. And then when I got the formal job offer letter, it was a long contract, which I wasn’t expecting. I had been planning on going to a training for the job this weekend and starting, like, now (part-time, I’m still in school).

BUT I listened to my gut. I realized that saying yes to the job right away is really tempting because having a job and making my own money will make me feel really secure, especially since I am graduating soon, and I want to be more independent from my family (rely on their money less), and this job would guarantee that I would have something to do with my time and (what seems like) a good group of people to spend time with. So, I was tempted, and I was able to figure out and acknowledge why.

I also did a little google searching and was reminded that it’s okay to not say yes to a job offer right away and to take time to think about things. And to take time to figure out if the job is something I actually want to do. I was thinking that if I hate it, I can just leave, but one video said that if you leave a job after not being there long, it can have a “black mark” on your resume. I hadn’t thought of that. And some parts of the contract “survive” even after “termination,” apparently, so I could still be affected by things in the contract even if I left.

Anyway I was feeling some peer pressure and time pressure to start now, and there are some things I don’t like in the contract about not saying bad things about the company, and non-disclosure agreements and non-compete agreements. I was also getting some pyramid scheme vibes, like they were trying to recruit me right now to meet some quota. I once accidentally joined an intense Christian group that bordered on a cult, and this was reminding me of that whole experience.

I made the really good decision to just email and ask my questions, and to postpone doing the training instead of doing it literally tomorrow. I will have time to talk to my family and friends and maybe other people and get their opinions before officially committing to this.

I feel like this is a really reasonable thing to do. I didn’t let myself get peer pressured into joining too soon, and I’m also not ditching the whole thing and ghosting my interviewer without an explanation. I’m cautiously, maturely, wise-mindedly investigating more so that I can make an informed decision. I am listening to my emotions and checking the facts on them. This feels really good!! 🙂

And I also feel like, it will probably all turn out okay. Non-disclosure agreements are probably standard. I’m just new to them. And so it’s okay for me to ask questions and get more information and make sure I’m okay with stuff. And if I’m not okay with stuff, I can just decline the job offer. People won’t harass or pressure or keep calling me if I decide not to join. They are professional people in a real, reputable company and not sketchy bordering-on-a-cult members. Either way I am safe and can make a good decision and be okay.

It feels really good!

Elsa dramatically throwing away her crown and singing, “The past is in the past!” (Screenshot from this Disney UK Let It Go Frozen Sing-along video)

Other stuff in my life is going well, too. I made some other good decisions. 🙂 Last semester, classes on zoom were kinda awful, and I was not in a good place. But, there were two classes that I did enjoy and did do well in. They were both project-based classes, they both had group projects, and they both had me do stuff with my hands, instead of staring at a computer screen.

So, this semester, I made the really good decision to take entirely project-based classes. And I am loving it! I am thriving! I am so sick of zoom and cannot stand zoom lectures anymore. And I don’t have to! This semester I don’t have any problem sets or exams! It’s all project assignments, presentations, small quizzes, and reports.

Projects seem much more meaningful than normal school. I understand that I have to do the steps along the way in order to end up at the final product of the project. Like, I’m building a robot (!!), and it makes perfect sense to me that I have to design the parts, figure out what hardware I will need, test things out, etc in order to build the final robot. So, I’m motivated to do these things. I don’t procrastinate them. I’m even excited to do them. I’ll do them in my free time, or at 3 am, because I want to. And having group members that I am accountable to helps a lot, too. And it gives me built-in social time. Less loneliness for me! And regular, scheduled times to see people!

Yayyyy! I am feeling pretty good about myself, lol. I am proud. Of course I have to acknowledge that a lot of this is luck, too. If this wasn’t my senior spring, I probably wouldn’t have much, or any, say in what classes I got to take. And there was some luck in how I found this job, and privilege that I was able to go to a career fair to find this company.

I got an unpleasant reminder recently that my wellbeing is largely based on luck and not the hard work I do. I had been feeling better, physically, for a couple months. I was eating dairy-free probiotic yogurt every day, and my diarrhea had disappeared. But then my yogurt was too close to the back of the fridge, and the temperature was too low, and it all froze. I don’t really know what happened to the yogurt chemically/biologically, but the consistency changed, and it made me gag, and the bits I did eat didn’t seem to help my stomach like they used to (maybe the good bacteria died). My diarrhea came back. All that “hard work” went down the drain. It was sad, but it was a good reminder that there are things out of my control. The probiotics were what was helping me, not that I was going on walks or just magically making myself less stressed or healthy or something.

So, conversely, when things are going well, I want to be careful to not be proud of “how well I’m doing.” I can be happy that I’m doing well, and I can celebrate it. I can be proud of actions I took or decisions I made. But it’s not healthy for me to be proud of things that are out of my control. Because then when they go wrong, it feels like it’s my fault, when it’s not. It’s still out of my control.

So right now, when lots of things seem to be going well: I am proud of how I handled this job offer, and I am happy that I was offered the job in the first place. I am proud of the healthy habits I am keeping up with (like the action of eating my yogurt!), and I am happy that not many things are going wrong right now and that I am doing well overall.

Life, Positives

I called 911 in my nightmare! :) Improvement and “Success nightmares”

So, as a result of PTSD, I generally have a lot of nightmares. I have had a lot fewer nightmares since I did DBT-PE (dialectical behavior therapy with prolonged exposure) almost two years ago (yay!! success!!), but I still have them sometimes. However, the content is generally better!

A main theme in my trauma was feeling helpless, and this was also a theme in my pre-PE nightmares. It is still a theme in some of my nightmares, but, sometimes I also take action in my dreams and solve the problems in ways I wasn’t able to do during the actual trauma!

This is really exciting for me because it feels like I am finally “over it,” or at least over some parts of it. And my unconscious, which is active at night, is over it, too. It’s not just conscious-me.

Please note: this post contains descriptions of both nightmares and trauma. This includes descriptions of helplessness, calling 911, brain injuries, trees falling, fire, and mask-less people during covid. There are mentions of Christmas, injuries, a car accident, potential death, unconsciousness, broken bones, and surgery.

The first time I had a “success nightmare” like this was about a few months after I finished PE. In the nightmare, I was at home, and there were various things going wrong. I don’t remember all the details at this point, but one of the things going wrong was that there were all these fires. Several patches of trees had caught fire. So, in my dream, I literally flew around putting out fires. I went to each problem and dealt with it. I was able to do it. I left the trees wet and hissing with steam. It was so good. Being able to deal with it took a lot of the fear out of it.

I had another “success nightmare” like this last night, and I wanted to share it. 🙂 I actually first had a different nightmare earlier in the night. In the first nightmare, someone came into my room, my personal, clean-air breathing space, and wasn’t wearing a mask. I was really scared of getting covid and asked them, very politely and maturely (I think I even used a DEARMAN in my sleep, lol!!), to please put a mask on and leave. (it was something along the lines of “I noticed you are not wearing a mask, I am really worried that I will get sick, could you please put a mask on”).

In my dream he did not put a mask on and proceeded to ridicule me for having the gall to ask him to put on his mask! And then, I left my room and went out and about, and everyone that I knew, including my close friends, intentionally took off their masks when they saw me to make fun of me for making a big deal out of nothing and being too sensitive and worried. Ugh. It was awful. It makes me so angry to think about it. But I also felt so helpless because these people were not wearing masks and were just openly breathing on me, and there was nothing I could do to get away from them.


Anyway then I went back to sleep and had this other nightmare that ended on a better note. I think it started out as a good/okay dream (I don’t really remember that part), and then became a nightmare. I was at my home (which, interestingly, is where almost all my nightmares take place, even though a lot of my actual trauma was far from home) and was standing on our long driveway in the forest. Then all the trees started falling down. (and now I am dissociating trying to write this…) They were these big pine trees with two-foot-wide trunks, and the forest was pretty thick, so there were a lot of them, crashing down. Some trees fell into others and caused a domino effect throughout the forest. My sister and I were standing in the forest and couldn’t get away from them. We wouldn’t have been able to run far enough to get out from underneath the path they were falling in because there were trees coming down in all directions.


This fear of a tree falling on me does come from real life (not trauma though). In the past six months, two trees have nearly fallen on me. One was a huge tree in our backyard that just suddenly cracked and tumbled from rot on a blue-sky, wind-free afternoon. Luckily I was far enough away from it, but when I first heard the cracking noise and couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from, it was really scary.

The other was our Christmas tree, which was a large tree we cut and brought inside. It was partially decorated, including lights and some glass ornaments. The base wasn’t super secure, and the tree was probably too big for the base, and the whole thing just toppled. If there hadn’t been a ladder in the way to break its fall, it would have fallen on me. Anyway. This fear doesn’t come out of thin air. I think it’s interesting to see how things from my life end up in my dreams.

The fear of people coming into my room without wearing a mask comes from real life, too. I’m living back at college this semester, and apparently someone has to come tomorrow to inspect my fire extinguisher. They have to come into my room, and I don’t know if they’ll be wearing a mask. I have seen so many people not wearing masks, even inside my building. If this person isn’t wearing a mask, or it’s only covering their mouth and not nose, or they’re wearing a mask but it’s not well-sealed, or I don’t have time to put on my own mask before they open the door, what will I do? Will all the air in my room just be potentially infected? (this is real life!) I guess I can leave the windows open for a few hours. But it’s really cold outside. I guess I can deal with that though.


Anywayyy in the tree falling nightmare, my sister and I, and my mom and some other people who were now just magically there, like they are sometimes in dreams, did get hurt by these falling trees. They were falling and rolling and crushing us. People had broken bones, and everyone had a brain injury and was slurring words together and having a hard time thinking and doing things. When the trees had all fallen and things were settled down, I knew that I had to call 911 to take us to a hospital and get help. (and I’m dissociating again..) This part is directly related to trauma. (I am trying to write this (opposite action!) but it’s hard.)

In the dream I knew I needed to call 911, but I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t figure out how to call. I was asking each person individually to please call 911. But they all had brain injuries, too, and couldn’t do it. My mom said she didn’t have 911 in her contacts and didn’t know the number for it. I told her that it’s in the name, it’s literally 9-1-1, but she still didn’t get it. Some people had broken phones. No one could call 911. I eventually realized I had my phone in my back pocket. It somehow wasn’t broken by the chaos. I got it out. I had a really hard time unlocking my phone and using it, due to the brain injury. But I eventually managed to get to the phone app and to type in 9-1-1. An ambulance eventually showed up.

This may not sound like a successful or resolved nightmare because we still got hurt really badly, but to me it was successful because I was able to call for help. In the actual trauma, a severe car accident, we were in the middle of nowhere, and the two phones we had were smashed to tiny bits in the accident. We had no way of calling for help. We were trapped, stuck, helpless, in the middle of nowhere. We, and especially my dad, could have died if we did not get help.

I also have had other nightmares, pre-PE, where my family and I got hurt and we were unable to call 911. For example, one memorable nightmare ended with me and my family sitting and lying on the floor of our house, all hurt in various ways. In the dream I could see the phone, but I couldn’t reach it. I was in too much pain / too broken to move any closer to it, and my arm wasn’t long enough to reach it from where I was sitting. I asked someone else in my family to get it (maybe my mom? I don’t remember), but they said, “<my name>, I can’t.” They were too broken to move, too. We were all so helpless.

So, in contrast to the actual trauma and to past nightmares, this one really was different. It was a success. I was finally able to call 911! It feels so good. Such a relief.


Also, side note, there is a difference between a nightmare and a bad dream. I’ve been using these two terms to mean different things, and apparently my friends and family didn’t know they were different. A bad dream is a normal dream that is unpleasant / has negative emotions in it. A nightmare is a bad dream that wakes you up (source). There are also some other differences between them. For example, trauma nightmares can occur during non-REM sleep (source). I often have nightmares during naps after being asleep for only 5-10 minutes. That wouldn’t happen with a bad dream.

I personally normally wake up from nightmares into panic attacks or flashbacks, which often quickly change into dissociation. It can sometimes take me all day to fully come back to reality. I was talking about bad dreams vs. nightmares with my brother, and apparently his bad dreams never wake him up?! So he has never had a nightmare?! What?! When my PTSD was at its worst, I was having like three nightmares per night! It’s also interesting to note that he was in the same car accident with me and the rest of my family that started most of my trauma. When it comes to emotions, my brother and I are very different people.

Here’s an interesting thing, since I’m talking about this now. There’s a statistic that 20% of people who experience a traumatic event get PTSD (source). In my family, there are 5 people, and only one, me, got PTSD from the car accident that we were all in. That’s 20%! I am that literal one in five! Of course, the accident has affected all of us a lot, but only I actually have ptsd. My mom had a lot of the symptoms of ptsd in the first couple years after, but they were more infrequent than mine and didn’t affect her life the way mine did. It was still very valid distress, just not ptsd.

It’s also important for me to remember that although we were all in the same accident, we didn’t experience the same events, and we didn’t experience them in the same way. My dad, who was hurt the most, was unconscious for several weeks. So, he just doesn’t conveniently have any memories of the whole thing! Also, I broke a bone and had to have surgery, but my brother, mom, and sister didn’t. We were also separated, and I had some experiences the others didn’t have. We also came into the accident with different life experiences. I was already more anxious of a person and had probably had diagnosable social anxiety for years. I was also already a little anxious about health because of other experiences I had had. So, the accident wasn’t the same for all of us. I have to remind myself of all this when I start to feel guilt or shame for being the only one in my family with PTSD. But I didn’t have any say in whether I ended up with ptsd, lol, so since it wasn’t a choice, guilt and shame aren’t justified.


There were so many tangents in this post! 😬


Have you ever had a nightmare or bad dream that you turned around or “solved”?

Coping Skills, Life

How to modify dances when your body is in pain or works differently

I love dancing and have been dancing for most of my life. It started getting painful to dance in fall of 2019. Then in March 2020 when school went online, I moved back home, and the semester’s performance was cancelled, I stopped dancing altogether. I didn’t dance for many months and tried to take it really easy on my body. I danced a little bit with my sister occasionally last November and December. And now, I am back at school (still online, but I’m living on campus), and I’m in two dances this semester for the dance group I’m in.

(there is more backstory to this than I originally intended; feel free to skip to the how-to part if that’s what you’re looking for!)

I love dancing, but it is still painful. 😦 I had a dance teacher once who was very accepting and understanding of everyone and encouraged us to just “modify” the moves to best suit us. However, I didn’t know how to modify them! So I ended up just doing what everyone else was doing and hurting myself.

I felt a lot of peer pressure when dance classes/rehearsals were in person because everyone, especially the choreographer, was watching. I felt bad if I didn’t do a move or sat down for a bit. Some people were nice, but others were not. Plus the choreographer normally has a vision for how they want their dance to look, and I felt pressure to meet their vision and expectations. And I want to be able to move that way. If someone does a really pretty, fun, powerful, or graceful move, I want to be able to move that way, too! And sometimes I can’t.

This makes me really sad. I am getting sad writing this. I think I am grieving the loss of this ability a bit. Dancing used to be one of few consistently good things throughout my life (another one is nature), and now it’s not anymore. It’s hard and painful, which makes it less enjoyable, and it probably won’t get better with just “hard work” or “practice” or “getting used to it.”

Today (right before this, which is why I am writing this), I had a rehearsal. I like my choreographer. She is kind and understanding. I told her that I have health issues and will be taking it easy on my body and may need to stop and stretch often. So she’s aware of that. And the group of people is great. Many of them are seniors, like me, and I’ve been in dances with them before. And my choreographer lives right above me, so I can hear her floor squeaking as she dances, even though we’re all on zoom, so that’s cool. It makes me feel connected to her. And I like the song we’re dancing to, and I like the dance. The dance is gentle (no sharp/forceful movements) and somewhat slow, which is good for my body.

But even with all those good things, I didn’t have a good rehearsal because of my (stupid) body. Things were fine until we did two step pivots, and then my feet (like, the bones in the balls of my feet) felt awful. It did not feel good, it did not feel right. I got really anxious (note: I had pain first, then anxiety. The pain was not caused by the anxiety at all.) and couldn’t get away from the feeling that “something is wrong, something is wrong.” I turned off my video and sat on the floor and hugged my knees and kinda dissociated.

I think part of me was scared that this will lead to several more days of pain, because that has happened before. And last fall (2019), it seemed like all my physical issues started (or at least got a lot worse) after a dance class where I felt similar uncomfortable feelings. The day after that bad dance class, I skipped my actual classes because it was too painful to walk to them. (thanks to zoom, that’s not an issue now, haha) So, I don’t want that to happen again. Especially since I’ve been feeling better in general recently.

I think I pushed myself too much today. I had already done two physically strenuous things today before this dance class. I’m aware of Spoon Theory, but I think I have to actually use it and ~radically accept~ that I am someone who could be helped by it. I had already used up my spoons, and it was too much for my body.

So then after I cried/dissociated for a bit, I tried to do things to make it better, and I kinda massaged my feet (didn’t help much) and then got up and ate some candy lol for self soothe. And then (and I am proud of this), I messaged in the zoom chat that my feet were not having it today and that I was going to do the rest sitting down. And I turned my camera back on! And I followed along with the arm parts! My arms weren’t feeling great, either, though, so I guess my whole body has had enough for today. My hands are actually not feeling great as I type this, either. I think I’m just too cold. It’s too cold in here. My joints are not good when it’s cold.

Anyway, that’s all the story/preamble. That was longer than I expected. This is fresh on my mind and, I guess, kinda emotional. Anyway.

Now that I have been dancing in modified ways more, I feel like I actually know how to modify dances now. So I will share those tips. 🙂 The same general strategies could probably be applied to other group exercise classes, or really any exercise routine you’re following that’s not something you came up with for your body.

How to modify dances

  1. Do smaller movements. Don’t lean as far. Don’t take as big a step. Take a tiny jump. Don’t lift your leg as high. Do one spin instead of two. Don’t turn your head as far. Don’t lift your arm as high. This is probably the biggest thing!!
  2. And, if you can, do slower movements.
  3. On turns, spot! Spotting is when you look at something with your eyes, keep your eyes focused on it as you turn, and then flip your head around quickly and find the same place. This is something that can be learned and is often taught, but it’s easy to forget to do! Spotting takes more work but makes me way less dizzy and nauseous. I just have to focus on focusing on something, haha.
  4. If a move goes down to the floor and back up quickly, don’t go all the way down to the floor. Stay on your knees or feet partially. Don’t untuck your toes. This makes it less of a sudden movement (aka less pain) and makes me less nauseous.
  5. Practice doing things slowly and in a controlled manner before attempting to do them full-out. Make sure you know how you will move and which muscles you will use and how you will support your body before trying to do something up to speed.
  6. Similarly, if there’s a new, complicated, or quick move, break it down into bits and practice each part. It’s okay to not have it on the first day and to gradually learn it and put the pieces together over several weeks. Maybe those muscles will even get stronger or more used to it over time.
  7. Walk (just take steps) instead of doing a move to get from one place to another.
  8. Focus more on other things that make a dance “look” good. Be aware of your facial expressions and try to look at the audience / the camera when appropriate. Add emotion to the dance. Make sure you’re in time with the music. If it’s a tap dance, make sure the sounds you’re making are at the right times, even if you’re making the sounds with different steps.
  9. If you can’t do the leg part, just do the arms, and vice versa. Or just do the head. Whatever feels comfortable for you in that moment. You can sit down if you want, on the ground or in a chair. If you’re in a spinny chair, you can use that to help you move, too! Or if you have a wheelchair, you can use that to move around (I don’t actually know much about wheelchairs, sorry, but I do know that there are actually some dance classes specifically for wheelchair users that just do dances from the waist up!).
  10. Skip moves that you can’t modify at all. But you don’t just have to stand still (or sit still). You can sway to the beat of the music and focus on your facial expressions. Even just listening to the music can be helpful so that you hear how the counts go and when each move happens. If you can’t do any of that, that’s okay, too! It’s better to not do it than to get hurt! It’s okay to take a full-on break like I did and take some time to take care of yourself! It’s probably better for you in the long-term!

Ballet-specific

  1. Probably the most common modification is to change 5th position to 3rd position. So, instead of putting your heal touching your other foot’s big toe, only put it in the middle of that foot. Or even less.
  2. Similarly, don’t turn out as much if your knees hurt.
  3. Don’t lift your legs as high, don’t lean back so far, etc.
  4. Don’t try to fully do moves if you don’t know them or aren’t used to them. Ballet often uses muscles that the rest of everyday life doesn’t use. It takes time to build these muscles. It’s better to do an incomplete version of the move than to hurt yourself. As your muscles get stronger, you may be able to do more of it.
  5. Some ballet teachers (in my experience and what I know from other people and things I’ve read) can be more particular and harsh than teachers of other types of dance. Not every ballet teacher is like this, but some are. It’s okay to leave the class and find a different teacher if you want to. This goes for all the dances, too, but in ballet there is an emphasis on doing moves in a specific way that there isn’t an emphasis on in, say, modern dance. Modern is much more “make the move your own, let it come from your heart.”

Tap-specific

  1. As I said above, make it sound good. Most people are probably watching your arms and face, not your feet, anyway. If you can move your arms and make facial expressions comfortably, then focus more on those things.
  2. Take steps instead of doing flaps. This will sound the same and is less foot movement.

In general

  1. Let your choreographer or teacher know ahead of time if you think you’ll be doing things differently or taking breaks. For me at least, this makes it much easier and less shameful to do things differently or take those breaks when I need to because they’re already aware.
  2. On zoom, turn off your camera if you want to.
  3. Stretch a lot before and after, and anytime in between, if it helps you.
  4. Maybe dance in a warm room? Since it’s cold, I’m wondering if this would help me. Maybe I should wear a long-sleeved shirt instead of a t-shirt.
  5. Make the floor comfortable to dance on, and make sure you’re wearing the right gear. If you’re in your own space, like I am now, put an extra blanket on top of the floor to make it comfier to dance on. A yoga mat or towel could be good, too. Wear socks to make your feet move more smoothly over the floor. Or wear ballet, tap, jazz, etc. shoes that are meant for the type of dance you’re doing. Make sure they’re the right size and fit comfortably and are tightened properly in the right places (the tightening should be so that the shoe supports your foot properly, not so that it hurts. If it hurts then don’t do it).
  6. If you have long hair, tie it back. When my hair is flailing all around, it makes me more dizzy.
  7. And if it hurts to wear it in a ponytail, braid it loosely. A braid pulls on my head less and is much more comfortable and still keeps it out of my face.
  8. Make sure you’re prepared to dance by eating enough food and drinking enough water throughout the day.
  9. Quit dances or classes if you need to and it’s too much for your body, or the teacher/choreographer isn’t nice to you. Do what’s best for you! You may be able to find a better teacher/choreographer or class. Or you can dance on your own. Or make your own dance group!
  10. Find dance options that are best for you. Like I said, this dance that I’m in is gentle and slow. Fast dances or sharp movements are not good for me. Hip hop, tap, and ballet are overall much more painful for me than these sort-of-modern dances I’m in now. I think that dances where you stay upright like line dances / social dance (square dancing, contra dancing, etc) or TikTok dances might also be better for me, but I haven’t tried those recently.
  11. If it is hard for you to do things differently or take breaks, try to bring yourself back to self compassion and radical acceptance. I want what’s best for me in the long term. It might feel better (less shameful) to push myself harder now, but I will feel much worse later. I’m the only one that has to live in my body with the consequences. I have to listen to my body and trust myself. And I have to accept (not deny) that pushing myself too far can make me hurt, even if everyone else seems to be doing it easily and painlessly.

So those are my tips so far! If anyone has ideas for how to modify a pivot, let me know. Maybe if I step with my whole foot instead of the balls of my feet, it’ll be better? I don’t know. I think I will also wear warmer clothes next time. And make more of an effort to stretch. I realized I had to go to the bathroom during our stretching time, so I didn’t stretch much. It would have been better if I had gone to the bathroom before the rehearsal started. So, that goes along with making sure I’m prepared to dance.

Does your body hurt when you move? Have you modified things so that they don’t hurt (or hurt less)?

Coping Skills

Coping skill of the week: leaving voicemails and Snapchat video messages

Way back when I first started this blog, I started doing a “coping skill of the week” thing. I might go back to it every now and then (but won’t do it every week!).

Anyway, this week I have been trying to have more social connection by snapchatting people pictures and video messages, and just calling people and leaving voicemails.

With most of my life and socialization happening online, it gets lonely. Even if I have a class with my friend, I can’t just turn to them and whisper the way I could if we had class in person. I also can’t talk to people before and after class or run into people in hallways.

So, I am trying to replicate that a bit. Texting sometimes feels unemotional and distant. Sometimes my friends don’t reply to my messages and just “react,” which annoys me. Instead, today, I sent a couple friends Snapchat video messages. I just said hi and that I hoped their day was going well and stuff like that. It felt good. Then my friends snapchatted me back!! 🙂 I got to see their faces moving and hear their voices. It was so nice, so much better than texting.

Sometimes it’s hard to find a time to talk to someone. We have to find a time that works for both of us, schedule it, wait, and show up… it’s a whole long process sometimes. But, with Snapchat video messages, I can kinda have a video conversation with someone asynchronously. We don’t have to plan a time to talk together. They can reply to me whenever they get a chance. And I can send them a message whenever I have something on my mind that I want to share. I can even leave a message in the middle of the night when they’re asleep!

I can also just call or FaceTime people out of the blue. I used to hate when people did this to be because I didn’t want to have to unexpectedly talk to someone, but my perspective has changed now that I’m more desperate for social things and want to see my friends more. Plus, my friends are people I want to talk to, and I’m okay with them seeing or hearing me when I’m not all put-together.

I called my friend and left a voicemail for her last week when she didn’t pick up, and it was good. It was also easier to get a lot of info out at once via talking than it would have been via text. I feel like she also really understood what I was saying, which she might not have if I had just texted.

Yesterday when we had a break in the middle of a long lecture on zoom, I just picked up my phone and FaceTimed my friend. If we were in person together, we would have been chatting and catching up during the break. My friend didn’t pick up, but she FaceTimed me back a few minutes later, and then we chatted for a bit. It was really nice to see and talk to her, even though it wasn’t that long.

I know that there are some other ways of doing this, too—some phones let you send voice messages through the texting app. Snapchat and good old fashioned phone calls seem to be working well for me. I somehow only realized recently that you can send videos, not just still pictures, on Snapchat. It’s basically like leaving a video voicemail!

Anyway, I am really enjoying talking to my friends more often in these small snippets.

How do you keep in touch with people you don’t see in person?

Affirmations

Affirmation #28: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

It’s easy for me to get caught up in thinking how much better it would be if I had done xyz last week, or years ago. But the second best time to do it is right now! And it’s better than doing it tomorrow, or next year! I can take positive steps today. 🙂

Life

Hello, it’s been a while, life updates

Hi! I haven’t been blogging much recently. It’s partly because I’ve been busy with school, partly because I’ve been depressed and unmotivated and wanting to withdraw from social things and online things, partly about not feeling great about writing about personal things online, and partly because I was procrastinating writing an essay, and every time I thought about writing on here I thought “well if I’m going to write, I should be writing my paper,” and then I ended up doing neither….

Anyway, hello again. One of my new year’s resolutions is to write more on here again! So here I am! Overcoming that initial anxiety of (re)starting!

Here are some things that have been going on in my life: (contains some mentions of bodily functions and 1 swear word)

  • School — online school has been awful. It makes me feel very lonely and disconnected, and sometimes unreal/dissociated/like I don’t exist. I have found that doing hands on projects (anything not on a screen) and talking to friends more frequently, and in person when I can, helps.
  • Health issues are still going on. (mentions of bodily functions, possible TMI) Digestive stuff (diarrhea, bloating, pain) and pain peeing are the main things. But, recently, I started having dairy-free yogurt with probiotics, and it is making a huge difference!! I am having much more regular and more solid poos. I haven’t had diarrhea in maybe a week? Or more? 2 weeks? I should look at my calendar and figure out how long it’s actually been! 🙂 Very exciting though.
  • I discovered Reddit! It is so good! There are so many different subreddits. I feel like I am finally able to find information about health stuff, and also so much other stuff, that I haven’t been able to find by googling or asking around or anything. r/ChronicIllness, r/IBS, r/IBSresearch, and many others have been useful for this stuff. (TMI in this sentence –> ) I realized that the yucky smell I sometimes smell when I have diarrhea is mucus from the lining of my intestine (which isn’t supposed to come out with my poop). I got a link to an article about how IBS isn’t always caused by stress (duh, I knew this, but it’s nice to be validated by science, since every doctor has told me that it’s because of stress!). And I learned that many, many people have had bad experiences with doctors who don’t believe them or take them seriously. It’s all very validating!
  • Other good stuff about reddit, since the last bullet point was getting long: I can learn so much information, broaden my perspective, see funny stuff, see cool stuff, even ask a random question and have someone reply soon and know the answer?! The internet is amazing. I feel like this is what I’ve been missing. I don’t have facebook (I don’t like their lack of privacy), and I think maybe lots of other people get this stuff from facebook, but I haven’t been doing that. This is new to me, and I really like it. If you’re interested, here are some of the subreddits I like (you don’t need an account to browse): r/wholesomememes, r/CasualConversation, r/ChangeMyView, r/DataIsBeautiful, r/crafts, r/dadjokes, r/AnimalsBeingBros, r/DBTselfhelp, r/DoesAnybodyElse, (swear word) r/interestingasfuck, r/outside… I could go on and on. 🙂
  • I found a chronic pain support group through meetup.com, and I went to one zoom meeting with them. It was good, and I’m going to go back. 🙂
  • I’m trying to figure out if I’m going back to campus next semester or if I’m staying at home. It’s a really stressful decision for lots of reasons.
  • I have good relationships with my family, finally. All this time together has actually helped us a lot.
  • I’ve gotten more distant with some friends, which is sad and hard. I’m trying to work it out. It’s hard to feel connected to others on zoom.
  • I haven’t gotten my grades back yet, but I expect they’ll be…interesting. There are two classes that I think I might get A’s in, and two other classes that I honestly might fail. So…that’ll be interesting…
  • Stuff with my sustainability club is going well. I kinda ended up leading it this semester towards the end. I’m trying to transition my responsibilities onto someone else because I’m graduating next semester! :O
  • I’ve become nocturnal. I often go to bed at 5 am, 6 am, 7 am… it’s not great. I’m trying to fix it.
  • I’m trying a new app called Routinery (that I also heard about through reddit, lol) that helps you do routines (like getting up in the morning, or eating, or going to bed) To set it up, you input all the steps of your routine and how long each one takes. Then when you start the routine, it buzzes when it’s time to move onto the next step. It gives me that little extra bit of motivation, and it keeps me on track when I get distracted or forget things. And then I can see how long things actually took me compared to how long I expected them to take, which is useful. I’m trying to manage my time better. Using this app is maybe also part of my new years resolutions.
  • I guess that’s kinda it. When I write it out like this, not a whole lot has actually happened. I go on walks a lot. Nature is good. We’ve had some snow.
Pretty snow 🙂

How have you been?

Life

Where were you when Trump was elected?

(This is my own experience. I understand that many factors contribute to people’s political beliefs and decisions, and I won’t judge you if you vote(d) for or support(ed) Trump, though I disagree. More on that at the end.)

I feel like it was more of an important historical event than I realized at the time in 2016. I’ve been thinking about it recently, and I am getting scared that it will happen again. There were some other stressful things going on in my life at that time, and I am scared that they will happen again, too. Almost like it’s a mini trauma anniversary.

In 2016 I was a senior in high school. I was 18, finally an adult. I was applying to colleges, and it was a very stressful process. The early application / early decision deadline was Nov. 1. My mom wanted me to apply to a certain school. I didn’t want to apply, and hadn’t done enough on my application. It felt like I was boxed in by what my mom wanted me to do. She sometimes wouldn’t let me hang out with my friends or go to sports practice (essential self care things) because I was behind on my applications. It felt like she was controlling my time and life. I made plans to run away from home. I applied to work at a place that would offer me housing as part of the job.

I ended up sticking it out, staying at home. I submitted my application to the school. I submitted it past the midnight deadline, but the website didn’t stop me, so I guess it was allowed. It was a bad application. I ended up getting rejected from that school.

While this was going on, we were having our roof repaired. But it rained before the seal was put on properly. The roof got wet and soggy, and someone’s foot fell through when he stepped on it. There were big gaping holes in the ceiling in my room, and my mattress got wet. I essentially moved out of my room and was sleeping in a different part of our house for a few weeks.

The application deadline was Nov. 1. A few days later was election day. I voted for the first time. It was fun. I got a sticker.

In school, I was taking AP US Government and Politics. We talked about the election in class a lot. On election night, as a “special treat,” our class had an election night party. We got on two busses, one “Trump” bus and one “Hillary” bus. We went somewhere to eat dinner and watch the results roll in on TV. My teacher gave us each a large map of the US, and we colored in the states red or blue as they were decided.

I remember leaving the main room and going out to the hallway. I found two other people. We cried.

I remember going back in, listening to some of my classmates celebrate when Trump won states. Feeling disgusted.

I remember going back out to the hallway, crying in silence. I got out my colored pencils and tried to color something.

It was meant to be a party, a treat, exciting. But it was so upsetting and shocking. It was a weird atmosphere.

Eventually it was time to leave. We left in a rush. My teacher didn’t collect the red and blue markers he had given us, so I grabbed a bunch so that they wouldn’t be thrown out. I still have them.

I got back on the “Hillary” bus. It was quiet and sad. I wondered what was happening on the “Trump” bus. I asked my teacher, who I trust and respect a lot to this day, what this meant. “What’s going to happen now? What will we do?” For the first time, he didn’t know.

I got home; the election wasn’t decided for sure yet, but I went to bed.

I woke up in the morning in this unfamiliar room on an unfamiliar bed and saw my friend’s snapchat story, captioned “Waking up to a different country.”


These are the memories that stick with me. I think I also just don’t like October in general — some bad (medical and family) stuff happened one October. And I don’t like the gory Halloween decorations. And this is when it gets dark outside.

It all combines together into a not-great feeling.

This November, I’m a senior again, now a senior in college. Thinking about graduation and my next steps again. But I’m still living at home (because of online school). Still feeling trapped within these walls with my family. Still fantasizing about running away. I’m still in touch with that friend and that teacher. Trump is still president.

Of course, a lot of other things have changed, too. I’ve been to college, lived in a city, made new friends, decided to major in mechanical engineering. I went to a partial hospital program, started DBT, did Prolonged Exposure to trauma, and got more open with my friends and family about my mental health. I started this blog! I’m more sure of myself. I’m more informed about the news and social justice. I’ve lived through a pandemic. I’ve managed health insurance. I’ve lost my uncle and grandmother, and developed a string of unresolved physical health problems.

These are good ways to remind myself that this is not 2016, even if some things are similar. “That was then, this is now.” Things change for better and for worse in four years.


(If you are eligible to vote in the US and have not voted yet, please vote! Your vote matters, even if you live in a solidly “blue” or “red” state. Check out this video with 10 reasons to vote right now and look at Vote.org to find your polling place, ballot dropbox location, etc. If you’ve already voted, yay! And if you aren’t eligible to vote in the US, hi! What are politics like where you are?)

If you’re undecided on who to vote for in the presidential election or any other election, vote411.org has unbiased information on candidates. You can also check out candidates’ websites (just google their name and the position they’re running for). Their websites should tell you something about their goals, policies, and ideals.

Personally, I voted for Joe Biden for President. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Biden’s website describes what he plans to do in the next four years. Trump’s website does not contain any plans for the next four years. It only lists what he has already accomplished. I think that a President or anyone running for any office should have a plan for what they want to do.
  • I like Biden’s environment and climate policies. Like a lot of millennials, I think that Climate Change is the #1 problem in the world right now. I care about it because it will make every other problem — poverty, famine, drought, injustice, natural disasters, war, even pandemics — worse. Biden has plans (see website) to create lots of new Green Jobs. He cares about Environmental Justice. He wants the US to have a 100% clean energy economy by 2050.
  • Instead of modeling how to be safe during a pandemic by wearing a mask, Trump has encouraged dangerous practices and put people in danger. Trump’s rallies have been Covid “super-spreader” events that have gotten many people sick. This is the opposite of what I want from a president.
  • Biden would give federal money to schools so that they have the resources (like face masks and money to improve ventilation systems) to reopen safely. This would meet the need for safety from Covid, the need for social connection, and the need for money to make it happen.
  • Trump has divided the country, but Biden wants to reunite it. The last question of the final Presidential debate was “What would you say during your inaugural address to people who didn’t vote for you?” Trump answered the question by attacking Biden. Biden said, “I’m an American president. I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me. I’m going to make sure you’re represented.” I think that Trump would continue to polarize the country, and I think that Biden would help to unify it.
  • I really like Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate and potential Vice President. I watched her in the Vice Presidential debate, and she was confident, firm, and factual. She didn’t talk over Mike Pence. If she can keep a debate calm and not resort to hostility, maybe she can do something to keep the country calm.
  • This is why I voted for Biden for President. There are other reasons, too, but I don’t want to list them all. I am happy to discuss this respectfully in the comments if you want to.

As a break from all this… here’s a nice video/song with pretty scenery. 🙂 I hope you’re doing alright. ❤