Life, Positives

Life goes on, even in a pandemic… Recent accomplishments and updates

Though I’ve been cooped up at home since mid-March, life hasn’t stopped! I’ve made some “accomplishments” posts in the past (Dec 2019, Aug. 2019, Dec 2018, etc) but this one will include some negative things that have happened, too, because they are important life updates. I’ll do the negative ones first so that it’ll end on a happy note.

  • I’m doing school online from home this fall, and I’m pretty sad about that. I miss my friends, and I miss seeing them in person. I feel lonely. Zoom and FaceTime don’t always cut it.
  • I’ve had some bad experiences with my health that were kinda re-traumatizing. My mental health has gotten worse as a result, and I have new symptoms. (but things are getting better at the moment!) I’ve also discovered the term “medical trauma,” meaning trauma as a result of medical things like surgery or being in the hospital. This explains why I’m still struggling with the things that happened in the hospital after I was in a bad car accident 6 years ago, even though I’ve talked about the accident itself extensively in therapy (through Prolonged Exposure). Here are some resources I found on medical trauma: info, good article, story. If you know of any others, I’d love to see them.
  • I was supposed to kinda be doing an internship this summer, and I…kinda didn’t… 😦 I’m not totally sure how it happened. I guess I was busy dealing with my health. That took up a lot of time and energy. And I felt a lot of shame for not knowing things, so I didn’t ask for help, so I was stuck and procrastinating hard. I feel very ashamed of how I acted and the fact that I just didn’t do the work. I had an opportunity and I blew it. I also feel guilty, angry at myself, and sad.
  • I’m not going to try to list all the bad things because that doesn’t feel like a useful thing to do. These are the main ones, I think. Now, on to the positives! 🙂

I have gotten better at talking. For a while I was feeling insecure about how I talk, and I was having trouble communicating what I meant in a clear way. I felt like my main experience having real conversations (not small talk) was in therapy places. I think I’m fairly good at using “I” statements and validating people, but I don’t have as much experience talking in academic or professional settings, and I want to get better at this. The past few months, I’ve been part of a book club with my friends where we also talk about politics, the news, and controversial/sensitive topics. I feel like I can have a real conversation now, even about tricky topics. I can acknowledge when I don’t know enough about something. I can say why I think something and how I came to that conclusion. I can participate in a group discussion without needing to be called on, and without interrupting, or on the flip side, staying silent. I can disagree with people without it becoming an argument. My family did not teach me how to do this; if people disagree in my family, it’s always an argument. I am proud of the progress I have made with this, and I feel better about my abilities.

I’ve also gotten better at sending emails. I started sending the weekly email for my sustainability club when there was no one else to send it, and I’ve gotten so much better at it. It also doesn’t stress me out anymore at all. It’s just something that needs to be done. Sometimes I even look forward to it, and I write it ahead of time and use the schedule-send feature.

I’ve gotten better at singing. I was so insecure about my singing for so long. My brother is a “good singer” and has been in a cappella and chorus groups in school. He generally criticizes me when I sing for being off-key. But it turns out that, like many things, singing is a skill that I can improve at if I practice. So, I need to sing “badly” for a bit in order to get the experience I need to improve. Also, people don’t magically know how to sing songs just after listening to them (at least not most people, I’m guessing). People practice hitting the notes and transitioning between the notes for a long time before they’re able to sing it like it sounds in the song. I just needed some practice. My sister and I are putting on a musical we’ve created from a combination of two other musicals, and I’ve gotten a lot of practice singing for that. Singing is really fun, and I’m really glad I get to be in a musical. 🙂

I have also been in two Zoom musicals! One thing I wanted to do in college was be in a musical again, since I was in a musical my senior year of high school and loved it. With school online, I thought I wouldn’t get to fulfill that dream, but I’ve had the opportunity to be in these two musicals with a new club that formed when schools went online. It’s pretty cool!

My relationship with my brother is improving. We are closer now. We get along, joke around, and sometimes have meaningful conversations!

I took a summer class and gained a new perspective on animals and their behavior.

I’m reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, and it’s amazing, and has similarly changed my perspective on trees. Forests create clouds and are the main reason why rain can fall inland, far from bodies of water! Pine groves make the air around them germ-free! Trees can care for their young and help out sick trees by sending sugar through their roots! Trees can warn each other about attacks from pests! I highly recommend this book. It’s so cool.

As a result of the renewed Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve learned a lot more about racism today and in the past, anti-racism, police and criminal justice, housing inequalities, etc. I’ve also thought a lot about my own privileges and gotten better at accepting them. I read Trevor Noah’s book Born a Crime (I read the version adapted for young readers), and it was really useful for understanding apartheid in South Africa and making comparisons to the US. It’s all told through stories, which made it easy for me to read. There are some descriptions of violence, injury, abuse, and of course lots of injustice, so be aware if you read it.

And yes, I am reading again! I haven’t read much in recent years because of eye problems, concentration problems, and because I’m often triggered by what I read. But I feel like I can read again! Wow! 🙂 Reading the short stories with my friends has been good and helpful, too.

I got accepted to grad school?!? My school has a program where current students can apply to the masters program at the school. It’s an easier method of applying and getting in (basically everyone who meets a certain GPA cut-off gets in), so I feel like I got in “through the back door,” which makes me feel invalid, but it’s still real and great that I’m accepted! Before, I wasn’t planning on going to grad school, but because they lowered the GPA cut-off (so that I made the new cut-off) because of the pandemic, and because it may be hard to get a job after graduation with the current economy/unemployment rate/job market, it’s looking like I probably will go to grad school. So this is a change in my life plans, but it’s not a bad change. I’m also more interested in using mechanical engineering (my major) for bio-medical things… the pandemic has shown me that there is a need for mechanical engineers to design medical devices. So now I’m imagining different careers for myself. These aren’t bad changes, but they are major changes to what I imagine the next few years of my life will look like.

I had a trauma anniversary that wasn’t awful for the first time! 🙂

I am developing a better understanding of my body. (note: this paragraph includes talk of bodily functions) I had severe abdominal pain earlier this summer (severe enough that I couldn’t stand for more than 10 seconds because it was so painful). After a stressful and frustrating process of getting seen by a doctor and getting things figured out, I had a CT scan, which showed a large ovarian cyst. It was surprising to me that there was actually something physically, visibly wrong inside of me. In the past, doctors have dismissed various pains as a result of my ~anxiety~. But this time, there was actually a clear explanation why I felt pain. It hurt when I peed because there was a physical mass pushing against my bladder. The idea that pain is caused by something being wrong in my body is new to me, and very validating. The CT scan also showed that I had several benign renal (kidney) cysts. Is that what’s hurting randomly in that part of my body?? Are there actual explanations for the things I’m feeling?? I’ve also looked at some diagrams of internal organs. In the past, I avoided looking at things like that because it upset and triggered me. But I’m okay with it now. I am learning where different organs are. My intestines are really long and snake all over! When I feel my intestine-area gurgling and moving around, it is actually moving things through my intestine! My pain happens for a reason. There are specific, physical things going on in my body that cause the pain.

I reconnected with a friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in a year. It feels really good to have that relationship back. 🙂

I can still improve on things and make progress on things that are important to me, even though I’m at home almost all the time. My daily life looks different, but I’m still doing stuff and working towards my long-term goals. I can still have fulfilling experiences, new experiences, and happy times. 🙂

Affirmations, Coping Skills

Affirmation #27 — DBT Magic

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I have a DBT magic inside of me.


Sometimes I get out of my healthy habits and stop using skills. But I can always go back to them. There is knowledge and muscle memory in my body, and I have diary cards and lists in my folder. I am capable of using skills again. I can use the DBT magic within me to make my life better. 

My DBT magic makes me powerful and capable. With it, I can confront difficult situations. 

Life

Odd things my body has done

Note: Contains talk of my body doing odd things! 

Sometimes bodies do weird things. Sometimes they’re symptoms of other problems, but sometimes they’re just harmless, passing experiences.

I often turn to google when I have a problem, and sometimes I can’t find people who have experienced the same thing, no matter how hard I look. But the things I feel are still valid, even if someone else hasn’t experienced them or written about them.

So, I am writing about some of (what I think are) the more unusual things I’ve experienced. Have these ever happened to you? Are they things that other people experience and just don’t talk about? Or are they commonly known and my googling just wasn’t thorough enough? Or are they rare? Or is it just me?

  • Once, I got so dissociated that I saw the room spin and change colors.
  • For maybe seven months, songs didn’t get stuck in my head. This was after I was in a bad car accident, and it’s possible that it was caused by my concussion, PTSD, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, or some combination of those. I only noticed it when songs started getting stuck in my head again and I realized that it hadn’t happened in a long time.
  • About a year ago, I had a lot of pain along the skin of my legs every time I put on pants or leggings for about a month and a half. It happened with all fabrics, soaps, and lotions, both when I had shaved and when I hadn’t, etc. I didn’t have a rash, but when my legs touched something, I got painful, prickly tingles along my legs that sometimes spread to other parts of my body, along the skin on my back and chest, my neck, my face, scalp, and arms. The electrical prickles also made my legs jerk involuntarily when they get really bad. Anxiety and paying attention to it seemed to make them worse, and moving my legs seemed to make them better. Not wearing pants or leggings or anything touching my legs also made them better. I went to a doctor who said she didn’t know what was going on and referred me to a specialist, who I didn’t end up going to. And then a few weeks later, they went away. Since then, they have come back every now and then, but it’s not as bad anymore. It normally hurts after I take a shower, and I can make it better by wearing loose-fitting clothes like pajamas after and by distracting myself by reading a book or watching tv.
  • I broke my collar bone during a car accident. For a couple weeks after, before I had surgery, my pain would spike from a 2 or 3 to a 9 or 10 when I did something that moved my collar bone out of its broken location. When I have flashbacks, my collar bone hurts in the same sudden-spike-of-intense-pain way. If the pain were a musical note, it would be a sharp, loud, high-pitched note, like a “ping.” I feel like Harry Potter sometimes because I wake up from a nightmare with my (surgery) scar hurting.
  • Sometimes I pass out after exercising. I feel tired after a run and lie down to take a quick breather/nap, and then I wake up an hour later.
  • I once had my period for 5 weeks. I was bleeding continuously for five weeks. Sometimes it was heavier, and sometimes it was lighter. Eventually it stopped, thank goodness!
  • I used to have repeated nightmares that involved my family and me hurt and dying in our house. After doing prolonged exposure therapy and overcoming some parts of the trauma, I had a nightmare which started off similarly. But then I flew around in the air, fixed every disaster, and literally put out all the fires. I solved my nightmare without intending to specifically do that.

There is a wide breadth of human experience. There are and have been lots of people on this planet, and we have collectively experienced many, many things.

What odd things have you experienced?

Life

Me and my body

Note: includes talk of pain, bodily functions like going to the bathroom, and eating/not eating

My body and I don’t always get along. I’d like to think that it is all my body’s fault, that my body is the one causing me pain, but the truth is that I am not very nice to my body either.

A while ago I wrote a poem in my head that went something like this:

If my body was a person

If I was married to my body, I’d divorce it

If I lived with my body, I’d move out

If I could talk to my body, I’d beg and plead

If my body could listen, I’d DEARMAN it

My body causes me pain and unpleasant sensations, and I want to escape it. But I can’t just talk to it and plead with it to please be nicer to me, to not make me hurt, to give me a break just this once because I really need to get something important done right now… I can’t even ask it why it’s hurting me, what caused this, what I did wrong.

I am helpless and lost.

If my body was a person, I could communicate with it. Communication is a two-way street. Right now, my communication with my body only goes one way: from my body to me. It tells me “that hurts,” “don’t eat that, it’ll make you sick,” “bladder is full, please pee,” “stomach is empty, please eat,” “time to go to sleep,” “itch here,” and “now this hurts.”

I can’t say, “why does that hurt? what can I do to make it not hurt? what is wrong with this food? can you please give me a break this once?”

I find it really frustrating because I don’t know what’s wrong with my body or why it acts the way it does. It’s just the way it is. My body is part of me, but I have no control over it. It feels like it is not me. It feels like it makes decisions without me and has a mind of its own. Why do things keep happening? What is wrong? What is going on?!

I’ve been to a fair number of doctors, and no one seems to be able to find anything actually wrong with me. My blood tests show a healthy person. It makes me feel like I’m making it up or overreacting…

I may be overreacting at least a little. It’s a possibility. Pain is very connected to trauma in my mind and body. And connections to trauma can blow things out of proportion. But it’s definitely real and there. As I complained to someone after a doctor suggested it was just due to anxiety, “My knees don’t hurt when I’m anxious; they hurt when I walk down stairs.” There is definitely something going on in my body. I just don’t know what or why.

Maybe I’m assuming that all of my problems are connected when maybe they’re just a bunch of separate problems happening at similar times.

I am hesitant to share online what’s actually going on in my body because:

1) I am worried that people will tell me it’s just anxiety again, which feels really invalidating and upsets me, even if there’s a grain of truth to it;

2) I am worried people will say it’s not a big deal or it’s just normal stuff that I should be able to deal with… –> I can fact-check this. My friends know what’s going on, and they do not experience the same things I do. If similar things were happening to them, it would be more normal. But it’s not.

3) I am worried someone will tell me that it actually sounds like xyz real illness, and I don’t want to face that right now. I know that’s confusing/conflicting because I also want answers for sure. But it’s scary to consider that there might be something actually wrong. I’m very scared of that.

4) I don’t want to even tentatively put a label on it because I feel anticipatory shame around intruding on another group’s struggle if it’s not really my own. In wise mind, I don’t think this is good (I think it’s okay to say stuff even if I’m not sure because my experiences are real and valid), but… emotions… I will write a different post about diagnoses and validity and stuff at some point later because I have more to say about that.

Anyway. There is something going on. My body is not happy with me, and sometimes I don’t know why. (sometimes I do know why! I am making progress!)

I can’t talk to my body and have it listen to my words, but I can take care of it and listen to what it needs. Sometimes I get really frustrated when my body seems to be asking so much of me. “But I just went to the bathroom. But I just ate. It was so much effort. Why do you need me to do it again? Why so soon?” Out of anger, I ignore my body’s needs. I don’t eat, and then my stomach hurts more. It cramps up and feels like it is collapsing in on itself. It hurts. The pain is my body’s way of telling me it needs food, more desperately than it did before. But if I am angry at my body, I don’t want to give it what it needs. I feel like it shouldn’t have those needs in the first place. This is not very nice. When I refuse to meet my body’s needs, I am not being kind to it.

Recently, I have tried more to have compassion for my body. My body is trying its best. It is trying to take care of me. If a baby was crying but didn’t have the language to tell me why it was upset, I wouldn’t get angry at the baby; I would try to take care of it. When I take care of my body, it is less upset at me. If I eat when I notice I’m hungry instead of waiting, I feel less pain later. If I stop to stretch in the middle of a walk when my hips start to hurt, my hips will stop hurting. It takes time and effort to take care of my body, but it makes me feel better later.

Coping Skills, Life

Working through my coronavirus worries about going back to college

Note, this post contains lots of talk about coronavirus and hygiene, and some talk about the nasal swab test and death, among other things.

(I wrote this about a month ago in the middle of June! I recently found out that, since I’m a rising senior, I am NOT going back to school in person this fall. (I don’t know about the spring yet.) I will do college online this fall. I am relieved that I won’t be putting myself at more risk of coronavirus, but doing everything online will be hard in its own ways, too… Anyway, even though I know I’m not actually going to be living at school this fall, I decided I can still post this. There are other people (including my brother!) who are going back to school in person and who might have similar worries. (scroll down past the worries for ways to cope… advice and positive things))

I’ve managed to not worry too much about the coronavirus in the past couple months. The Black Lives Matter protests have kept my mind occupied for the past two weeks, and before that, I had final exams. I have been mildly worried about it, and worried about the general state of the world, and worried about many other things (as I normally am haha), but the initial stress of the first couple months (March, April) had died down. Plus, I’ve been at home, not interacting with people outside my family. I generally feel fairly safe here.

But now I have to consider going back to college in the fall. My school has not announced yet what its plans will be. They are supposed to be telling us soon, and now all my friends are talking about this all over again. I am stressed. I had avoided thinking about school for a long time. That was partially a good decision because it wasn’t worth it to worry when there was so much uncertainty, but I also just haven’t thought about going back to school in a while. Part of me thought that I would be stuck at home until January for the spring semester. But it looks like my school and others are trying to reopen in some form in the fall.

Should I go back to school if classes are in-person? Is it safe? It feels like a death sentence honestly. But I tend to worry a lot about health issues and think that death is more likely than it is (due to trauma).

I wrote out some of the things that worry me and the questions I have:

Things that worry me about the fall:

  • not being able to go home — in the past, I have gone home about once a month. This has helped my mental health a lot in the past (especially in contrast with my first year, when I barely went home at all and got very depressed)
  • the nasal swab test — I have heard that this is very uncomfortable. I am not okay with things being inserted into my body. I have had a lot of trouble with it in the past at doctor appointments and on my own. We might have to have this test done every week or so in order to make sure we’re not getting sick. That sounds very scary to me. But maybe I would get used to it? Maybe I could learn to cope?
  • intense rules and regulations over my personal habits — this just makes me feel powerless and unsafe and reminds me of bad stuff which I don’t want to go into
  • constant threat of death of me and my friends — obviously I am scared of this! I think I would be devastated if one of my friends died.
  • not being able to live with friends — currently I’m planning on living in a dorm with several close friends. I have been looking forward to living with my friends for months (maybe almost a year). The housing arrangement could change if we have to live in individual rooms with individual bathrooms. I’m not sure how I could manage living alone, especially if I wasn’t allowed to see my friends either because of social distancing. I’ve really appreciated being able to hug my family the past few months. I want to still be able to get hugs somehow at college.
  • not being able to partake in all the things I enjoyed — I loved dancing at school. I wonder if that will be cancelled now because there are too many people. Is rolling around on the dance studio floor safe? What about all the other events I liked attending: performances, lectures, events? Friendly get-togethers with friends? Will all my favorite parts of college be taken away? If they’re not there anymore, is it worth it to go? Would the in-person experience be any better than the online experience if those things don’t exist?
  • therapy? virtual still? privacy? — I don’t know how safe I would be traveling to my therapist’s office. It requires public transportation, and I would likely be with many people (probably not 6 feet apart) in a confined space for a long-ish time (half an hour?). What if I took a taxi? Would the surfaces be clean? What if the taxi driver was sick? Could I still have therapy virtually? If I did, would I be able to find a private space? If I was living with friends, would they overhear me? I have done therapy virtually at school before, but I didn’t like knowing that my people could probably hear me. But I could probably make it work.
  • bathroom cleaning? — my school website says that custodial staff will clean the bathrooms in my dorm once a week. On second thought, I think this is probably okay. If they’re cleaning the bathroom, they’re unlikely to make it dirty. Just having someone not in my less-than-six-feet-apart bubble (assuming I’m living with my friends) regularly entering my living space is a bit scary. But if they’re wearing a mask, hopefully it will be fine.
  • how would I do laundry? — my dorm has communal laundry facilities.
  • how would I get food? — I used to eat in the dining halls/cafeterias for most of my meals. Those don’t sound safe anymore, especially since you can’t wear a mask while eating. Will I cook and eat all on my own? I think I could manage that, but again if I’m doing that anyway, why not just stay home and do school online if that’s an option? (To be clear, I don’t know if it’s an option yet)
  • elevators? — I would likely have to use the elevator often to get to my dorm room and to class. Elevators are supposedly places where you can catch the coronavirus easily.

Okay, so, those are my worries. Naming them helps. Then I started looking up more information (which I had kind of been avoiding for a couple months). There’s a lot more that we know about the coronavirus now than we did a couple months ago!

I learned some things that I can do:

Things I can do:

  • stay 6 feet away
  • wash hands often (and use lotion afterwards)
  • avoid touching face — practice not doing this in the months before
  • wear a mask — make some masks
  • wear gloves on public transportation and in elevators
  • don’t get in elevator unless everyone is wearing a mask
  • wash clothes in warm water and dry thoroughly
  • clean the laundry basket
  • line laundry basket with bag? have separate bags for clean and dirty clothes?
  • don’t shake clothes
  • do one large load of laundry less frequently
  • change clothes when I get home
  • buy gloves
  • buy hand sanitizer
  • buy a thermometer
  • buy ziploc bags

These are tangible steps I can take. Many of these tips came from these pages: NYTimes Coronavirus Q&A and How should I do laundry now?. I can do these things and protect myself as best I can. This is shaping up to be a plan.

I also learned (from the Q&A list linked above):

Factors that affect whether you get coronavirus:

  • how close you get to an infected person
  • how long you are near that person
  • whether they expel virus droplets on or near you
  • how much you touch your face afterwards

So, I can minimize these factors, even if I am around other people. There are things I can do to prevent coronavirus. It’s not all out of my control. It’s not impossible to control either. If I do those things, I can mostly prevent getting coronavirus.

And finally, some positive things. (I actually wrote these first, but I’m putting them last here because it’s a nice note to end on.)

  • Lots of people are working hard to fight coronavirus.
  • We may have a vaccine one day. — This is something to look forward to!
  • Sleep, stress reduction, and exercise are good for my immune system.
  • People are making changes to improve the world. (Here is a nice list of changes that have happened as a result of Black Lives Matter.)
Affirmations, Life

Affirmation #26 — I am doing my best, AND I can improve (with a tangent on racism)

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I am doing my best, AND I can improve!


At any given time, people are doing the best that they can with the skills and knowledge that they have in the situation they are in.

This affirmation is helpful to me in lots of different contexts: in therapy/treatment/skills, in school, in anything new I’m trying… It’s also a helpful way to frame reminders to other people when I want to give them constructive criticism. For example, I understand that my mom is doing her best as a mom and is busy with lots of things and is already cooking a lot, AND, I would like to have more food in the fridge that I can eat (I have digestive issues and I can’t eat a lot of the stuff she makes). 

I’ve also been thinking about this a lot recently in the context of racism, bias, and systemic racism and other issues in our society. I am a white woman, and while I think I am doing my best, I know that there are ways I can improve, too. 

It helps me to think of the things I’ve done well in the past so that 1) I give myself credit for the good things I am already doing, 2) I know which things to do more of, and 3) maybe I can see where I am lacking. 

So, in the context of racism, these are some good choices I think I’ve made:

  • I chose to go my college in part because it has a diverse student body.
  • I decided that I want to live in a town that is diverse when I grow up (the town I grew up in and currently live in is over 95% white).
  • I took a class this past semester which discussed systemic disenfranchisement, colonization, etc. and where all the books we read were written by people from historically underrepresented groups (black, brown, female, gay, etc.). I wrote papers on these topics and discussed them in class with my peers. 
  • I took a Afro-Cuban dance class and discussed it similarly. 
  • I bought the book Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates several years ago (but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet). 
  • At some point in the past, I tried (unsuccessfully) to explicitly follow black creators on youtube.
  • In high school, I was part of a club intended to start conversations about race. However, I didn’t really participate. 
  • I took an Unconscious Bias Workshop offered at my college a few years ago. One thing that I took away from the workshop was the idea to fill out a “Bias Reflection” once a week. I’ve only written in it a few times, but I think about it more often. 
  • I’ve had some conversations about race with my friends.
  • I watched the tv show “Black-ish” for a bit because I wanted to understand others’ experiences more. 
  • I am writing this now… writing and publishing this is outside of my comfort zone! 

And here are some things I can improve on:

  • Well, I could actually read that book, haha. I could also look into other forms of media like youtube (again) or podcasts or music, since reading seems to be kinda hard for me. 
  • I can be more aware of supporting black-owned stores. Until this past week, I was not aware that that was something that I could do.
  • I’d like to get more comfortable talking about race. So, I want to have more conversations with my friends about this. I want to be comfortable asking “is this okay?” about something I’ve said or done, and questioning others when they say racist, biased, insensitive, or hurtful things. (<– I think I’ve actually gotten better recently at saying, “what?” “what do you mean?” “that makes me uncomfortable” “I don’t like that” “oof” “yikes” “are you sure” about insensitive things people say. I can continue doing this more and keep an eye out in particular for insensitive comments relating to race.)
  • I can take more classes like these ones and keep talking about the issues with my peers. 
  • I like the ideas on this website: https://www.whiteaccomplices.org I can try do some of those. 
  • I can donate to racial justice organizations. 
  • I am in a leadership position in a sustainability club at my school. As a club, we have talked about Environmental Justice and Climate Justice and how environmental issues and Climate Change are ethical issues because they disproportionately affect (and will affect) people of color and people of lower socio-economic status. We tried to organize events in collaboration with a Black organization and a low-income club (which didn’t happen because of the pandemic). As a leader in this club, I want to organize more events like this. I also want to help our club become more racially diverse. We currently do not have many people with black skin who attend meetings. Though we explicitly say often that everyone is always welcome, I want to change the club so that black people do actually join and come. I’m not sure how to do that though. The partnerships on events might help. 
  • I want to reach out to my congressman and others in government more. I could try to reach out about police brutality. That’s somewhere I could start. (though it sounds intimidating!)

I like the concept of being “anti-racist” instead of just “not racist.” That feels like a good goal, something that I can work towards. I’m on a journey now. 🙂

I have always cared a lot about other people and wanted things to be inclusive and just for all, but recently I have learned about more ways to actually make those things happen. 

I really like that it finally feels acceptable for me, as a white person, to talk about this stuff. In the past, I felt that I couldn’t contribute to discussions on race or racism or that it wouldn’t be right for me to talk, but the truth is that everyone has to be engaged in order for change to happen. I am part of society, too. And if there are things that I could improve on or could learn more about, it’s easier to change if I am actually talking about it. If I am unintentionally “part of the problem,” making things worse or even unintentionally hurting people, then I need to know that and address it. 

If anyone has feedback for me on how I am talking about this, I’d love to hear it! Or if you have recommendations for things to listen to or watch, I’d love to hear them, too! 🙂 Or ideas for things I can do to improve! 

Welp, that ended up taking a bit of a tangent. The message is still the same though: I am doing my best, AND I can improve! 

A key part of this dialectic is accepting where you are now without judgment. I am trying to click the publish button, and a lot of judgments are coming up. I feel like I’m not doing “enough.” I feel like I will be judged by the goals I set for not being ambitious “enough.” But this is where I am at now, and I can’t expect myself to be perfect instantly. That is unrealistic. Maybe it is sad that I am not already better about these things. Yeah, I think I’m feeling sad. 

I feel like maybe it is not my place to write about this, even though I literally just said that I want to talk about this more, and by writing this, I am doing exactly that. I also don’t want to put the burden on other people by asking them to correct me. But I’ve read this over and don’t see any glaring issues. I can learn through trying. I have to start somewhere. I guess I am being vulnerable. I am feeling vulnerable, and I’m feeling some shame. I hope that people will still accept me. 

Life, Positives

Positives of my current situation

I’m currently at home with my family, doing classes online. While there are some things I don’t like about this current situation (I miss my friends, my family can be a lot, the news is sad, etc.), there are actually a lot of genuine benefits, too. 🙂

  • I get to be home during springtime!!! I love spring. (could you tell from my username? lol) It is my favorite season. I go to school in an urban area, and my family’s home is in a more rural area. I haven’t been home during spring for 3 years, and it’s really nice to be here again and to get to watch all the flowers come up. The air smells so good. There’s so much nature here, and I get to watch it all unfold from the earth.

    Hyacinths
    Blue hyacinths

    Glory-of-the-snow
    Glory-of-the-snow
  • I get to spend time with my sister. She is in middle school (a fair bit younger than me), and I was sad when I went to college because I knew I’d miss out on watching her grow up. Now I get to spend time with her every day, in person, for several months. 🙂
  • I can compare being home now to the times I’ve been home in the past and see how much progress I’ve made. I expected coming home this time to be a struggle, as is usually is. And it has been hard at times. But overall, it’s been a lot better than it’s been in the past. We’ve had several family dinners that didn’t end in arguments! This is pretty amazing to me. From what I can remember, we’ve rarely eaten dinner together in the past few years, let alone eaten it together peacefully and made pleasant conversation. My communication with my mom is also so much better than it’s been in the past. We talk about stuff, I tell her things, and neither of us gets upset! We talk through our conflicts. It’s amazing.
  • I don’t have to walk to class. Walking to class was getting to be pretty painful because of joint pain. Now I get to skip all that. 🙂 I also don’t have to go outside when it’s rainy, windy, or cold. I can even wrap myself up in a blanket during class.
  • People are making an effort to reach out and stay connected with others. In the past when I’ve been home on a break, I wanted to stay in touch with my friends, but they didn’t seem to want to stay in touch with me as much. Now everyone seems to be making a real effort to stay connected. I’m facetiming, zooming, and texting my friends regularly. It’s not just me reaching out to people and not hearing anything back; people are replying, and some people are reaching out to me first!
  • I kind of got a job because of the coronavirus crisis?! I’m studying mechanical engineering, people need ventilators, and mechanical engineers have a lot of the skills required to design and make ventilators… someone asked me to join their team making a new ventilator, so, that’s what I’ll (hopefully) be doing soon and continuing this summer! 😮 It’s really nice to feel needed for the actual things that I have invested in studying in school. It makes me feel good about my choice of major, and I’m proud to be studying this and to be able to help. It also gives me a very tangible reason to do my homework and stay motivated!

Are there any positives in your current situation?

Life

I’m angry (a rant)

Note, this contains: anger, talking about covid-19, hand washing imagery, talking about death, and swearing without some of the letters.

I’m angry that my friends don’t check in with me as often as they did when I saw them at school. I’m angry at one friend in particular for, not once but twice, not offering any sympathy or “I hope you feel better” or “what’s wrong” or “<3” when I said I wasn’t doing well.

I’m angry at the internet and how lots of people are talking about what other people “should” do. You don’t know someone’s situation. You don’t know where that person lives, what that person does, how that person’s doing. I know that the quarantine works best if the most people follow it, and I am following it in the ways I can and I hope others (in the US, at least) follow what the CDC says… but… the messaging to stay home comes from everywhere. I can’t attempt to peacefully distract myself by watching youtube without being bombarded by ads telling me to stay home and popups reminding me that COVID-19 exists. Every email I get ends with reminders to stay home and wash your hands. One email I got requested that everyone “wash [their] hands til they chafe.” I personally do have painful, red skin on my hands most of the time (past year or so, pre-corona) that worsens when I wash my hands a lot or for longer times. I do not want to make my skin itch and peel. That is an awful thing to ask people to do.

Plus, not everyone can stay home. Some people don’t have homes. Some people need to work. People need to get groceries. People need to go to the emergency room for many reasons and pick up medicine at the pharmacy.

Then there’s the other advice that literally everyone seems to be giving to others, like to keep to a schedule, to try Yoga with Adriene on youtube, to watch Tiger King on Netflix, to pick up food for your neighbors, to make a homemade mask. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been spending more time on the internet recently since other forms of interaction have disappeared, and maybe I happen to follow things/people on the internet that share similar views (not intentionally), but it seems to me like everyone is spewing the same things.

I get that people are trying to help each other, and that’s very nice, but people are not the same!!! Personally, trying to keep to a (timed) schedule makes things worse for me, and has for many years. I’m at just as much of a health risk as my neighbors are. Plus I don’t know my neighbors. Personally, I’m not interacting with anyone that’s not in my family, so I don’t need a mask (at least for now). (though I might try making some for others, once I get my own life together) And I don’t have f-ing netflix. (and probably wouldn’t like the show anyway)

People are not the same! There were SO many different people on this planet, living different lives, doing different things, in different places, before covid-19, and guess what, those differences haven’t evaporated. People’s experiences are not the same.

I am still a full-time student. I do not have more free time than I did before!

Personally, I’m struggling. But I was struggling before all this. My struggles haven’t changed a ton. I still have nightmares, I still procrastinate my schoolwork and then get mad at myself, I’m still insecure in my friendships, I still don’t always get along with my family, I still struggle with eating, I still have physical health challenges that I worry about a lot.

Another thing I’m mad about is how people weren’t there for me when I was struggling my most. This is not the worst time in my life. Other times have been much worse. I have seen people expressing things about this situation that I felt so strongly during other traumatic times in my life and that were invalidated by those around me. I did not receive the amount of support or recognition or validation that people now are receiving.

I think that part of the reason I’m not that worried about people close to me dying is that they’ve literally all already died. All my grandparents are dead. The entire older generation in my family is gone. They died last January (my grandmother and my great-uncle. my uncle also died last January, though he was in his 50s.). The oldest person in my living extended family is 59. I’ve already suffered through and mostly gotten over those losses. And now I’m expected to be patient and validating with everyone else the way they weren’t patient and validating with me.

Last year, I had to email my advisor a picture of my grandmother’s obituary to prove that she had died, because I couldn’t get extensions on assignments or excused absences without it. Because it was the policy that she couldn’t just take my word for it. She couldn’t trust that I was telling the truth when I said that my grandmother died. She needed her f-ing obituary. And now, classes are pass/fail at my school. Teachers are sympathetic and very willing to grant extensions with zero proof or even explanation. I appreciate that they’re doing this, but at the same time it seems so unfair that even though I was struggling more in the past, it was harder to get help. Where was all this when I needed it?!

I’ve also struggled with being at home, on winter breaks and summer breaks, for years (due to being around my family, lack of privacy, lack of control, feeling trapped, trauma anniversaries, not having motivation, etc.). I have expressed this many times to many people (friends, teachers, advisors) over the course of years, but this is the first time I’ve been taken seriously. This is the first time people have agreed with me.

Now everyone seems to not have motivation. I’ve had to deal with this for years (hello, depression), but now everyone else gets the sympathy and support.

Honestly, I’m writing all this while angry, and I’m aware that it’s not exactly how I truly feel. I feel badly for my friends who are struggling. I care about them and want to help. I’m sad about the state of the world, and it alarms me how many people I see struggling who weren’t struggling before. I’m glad people are supporting each other and being kind.

I think probably another reason why this situation angers me is that I beat myself up for so long and invalidated myself for feeling the way I did while everyone else seemed to be fine. And now it turns out that it’s not that they had skills that I didn’t have; they just didn’t have struggles. I’m doing better than some of them now because I do have lots of really healthy, effective, coping skills that work for me. Other people were fine before because they hadn’t been challenged, not because they knew some secret I didn’t, were magically born better, were stronger, smarter, more assertive, or more resilient.

In my lab group last semester, I constantly compared myself to other members of my group. I didn’t think I was doing as much work as them or contributing as much. I saw myself as the mentally ill one that they had to support. Well guess what’s happening now. I’m the only one that still cares about lab reports in my group. I’m the only one that knows from experience that we have to work on it before the day it’s due, even though we don’t have motivation to. I’m the one being responsible and reminding people of deadlines and creating google docs and submitting reports and doing the calculations. Because I have the skills to deal with lack of motivation and being at home and lack of structure and still get on with my life. I’ve dealt with this before. They were only able to do more work than me in the past because they weren’t struggling. They weren’t trying harder than me; they were just lucky.

And again, the non-angry, wise mind part of me would like to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with being lucky. There’s nothing wrong with not having struggled or developed ways to get through tough situations. I’m glad that most of my classmates and friends have gotten to be 19/20/21/22 years old without experiencing life-changing trauma and without needing skills to deal with distress and to keep yourself going when you don’t want to. There’s always time to learn and develop skills or whatever is needed now to get through this.

And I know that people can struggle now even if they’ve been through bad stuff before, too. I know I’m struggling. There are days I’m not motivated either (or experiencing other bad things). There’s also nothing wrong with having gone through bad stuff and not developed good skills for dealing with it yet. Again, there’s always time.

I’m sorry if I offended or hurt anyone in my anger or by things I implied. Please let me know and I’ll try to make it up to you. It was not my intention.

Writing this helped me get some things off my chest and feel better. 🙂 And made me feel more valid, I guess. It’s valid to be angry when I see people getting support that I didn’t get in the same situations because that’s not fair, and I was missing out on stuff that would’ve helped.

Coping Skills, Positives

Structure! Today’s Accomplishments and Tomorrow’s Goals

This is a thing that helps me to add some structure to my days and life when I’m lost and kinda depressed.

I’ve been using these Today’s Accomplishments / Tomorrow’s Goals sheets recently, and they’ve been helpful. I recently moved out of my college dorm and am back at home with my family. Online classes haven’t started yet, so I don’t have much to do, and I can’t go anywhere or see people. So, filling out these sheets at the end of the day has been helping me to stay focused and do things. Doing things makes me feel better. Waking up to a plan for the day makes me want to get out of bed.

 

Today Tomorrow checklist
Today’s Accomplishments Tomorrow’s Goals

 

On the left side, I write what I accomplished that day! It’s often “little” things and big things: ate breakfast, called my friend, took a shower, emailed my doctor, unpacked my clothes. If something was especially hard, like getting out of bed or eating a meal, I’ll make sure to write that down and give myself credit for it, too. 🙂

Then I can also write some good things about the day at the bottom! “I’m grateful for my friend calling me, I’m proud of figuring out how to do therapy over Zoom, I saw beauty in the sunset, I am responsible, prepared, and caring.”

On the right side, I write out what things I want to do the next day. Unpack the rest of my clothes, take vitamins, eat 3 good meals, go for a walk, do yoga, start homework for x class, plant pole beans, etc.

Then I say what, among those things, is my priority (e.g. unpacking and eating 3 good meals) and how these expectations look (are they reasonable? a stretch? do-able?). These steps are especially useful when I have lots of things to do and it’s just not possible to do it all. In that case, I can state what my priority is and plan which things I won’t do in advance, instead of realizing at the last minute that I can’t do everything and panicking.

I also write something that will be true no matter what happens (e.g. I’m at home). This gives me at least one thing to count on when I’m not sure what else I can rely on. And then I write what I’m looking forward to! 🙂 If I’m not looking forward to anything, then I try to go back and add something good to my to-do list. 🙂

I’ve been using these off and on since middle school (!) as I’ve needed them. I’ve improved them over the years, adding the positive parts to fill in at the bottoms. I find that they are good at getting me back on track.

If you are also cooped up in one place, out of school or a job, feeling unmotivated or depressed, or in many other situations, maybe this could help add structure and positive things! 🙂

You can open the pdf file here. I print them out double-sided and cut them up so that I can get four accomplishments/goals out of one piece of paper. (Today I am proud of figuring out how to add a pdf to wordpress haha because that’s something that I’ve been meaning to learn how to do for a while!)

Wishing everyone the best ❤

Affirmations, Coping Skills

Affirmation #25 — Each year is different and new in its own way

IMG_3407

The fact that lots of bad stuff happened last year doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again this year. That was 2019, and this is 2020. The fact that some patterns repeat each year, like the start of school, holidays, and anniversaries, doesn’t mean that the same events of the same type of events will happen again this year. Each year is different and new in its own way.


A lot of bad stuff happened to me in December/January/February of last year. I feel better now than I did a month ago, and I haven’t been thinking about those things as much, but sometimes I just can’t shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen purely because a certain date on the calendar is coming up.

Right now, the anniversary of my grandmother’s cremation ceremony is coming up. It makes me anxious. I know that it’s the date in particular that is making me anxious because when I imagine the date being after this particular date, I feel relieved.

In December, I was so scared before each important date happened, and so relived, happy, and hopeful the day after, once it passed and nothing bad happened.

I’m trying to ground myself when these feelings come up and focus on what is going on around me in my life in the present. Reminders like this affirmation help, too. The dates repeat each year, but the events change.