Stuck

I typically try to be a little bit more eloquent and creative in titling my blog posts, but this simple, 5-letter word seems to be the most appropriate for encompassing the mood I’ve been in for the past, well, months.

Some nights, when I’m out inhaling the heavy summer air, enjoying the romantic landscape of a late night sunset, I feel carefree and optimistic, and completely in love with my life.

Other nights, and honestly, most nights lately, I feel a sobering sense of hopelessness- like I’ve dug myself into the ground, and there is no rope long enough to rescue me.

I miss who I was before I became who I am now.

I used to wake up every morning as a girl on a mission. I was charismatic, passionate, and a bit of a know-it-all. I knew where I was headed, and nobody was going to stop me. I knew I had a lot to prove, but I also knew more than anyone that I was more than capable. I was engaged in my everyday experiences, and I drank up every opportunity I had to learn something.

Even despite my history of trauma, anxiety-based pathology, body dysmorphia, and self-imposed tendencies to isolate myself.

But now, I am uninspired.

Or, perhaps, simply unconvinced of my own capabilities. Disenchanted with me.

I’m in a maze-no-multiple mazes at once, and I’ve hit a dead end in every one.

I chose an academic path that is insufficient for my career goals.

I chose to associate with people who were capable of more damage to me than I could have ever foreseen, and can no longer outrun the impact.

I am stuck in a body-a cage that I hate-and will never be able to mold into something that I can tolerate.

I am stuck in a toxic atmosphere, where I see real suffering by real people everyday, and am incapable of alleviating it.

I am stuck in a brain that won’t turn off, or simply even slow down.

At home, I feel like an intruder.

I feel distant from everything, as if I’m watching it through a glass barrier in a museum. Close-but not close enough to feel.

The best solution I can draft is the “clean slate” method. I want to run away-start over in a place where nobody has met me. Go by a different variation of my name. Become someone else. Someone better. Someone stronger.

A change of scenery is what I need.

And that, is the sole mechanism that propels me forward-the opportunity to never look back.

M.

 

 

 

Temerarious

 

I spent the last weekend bedridden with a horrible flu.

The flu can be detrimental to one’s health in a number of ways- there’s the physical component of the illness, of course, in which the immune system is insufficient for fighting off pathogens, but there’s a physiological component that, in my experience, is far more harmful than any fever, bout of chills, or stuffy nose.

When you’re as sick as I was last weekend, you have no other option but to slow down-your body insists. But your brain is not forcibly stagnated to the extent that your limbs might be. What I’m saying in way more words than are necessary is that I had far too much time for thinking over the past couple of days for my own good.

In a desperate attempt to occupy my mind and focus my racing, unorganized thoughts, I began (and finished) the Netflix original series Thirteen Reasons Why. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I suggest that you set apart the next 13 hours and binge the entire series. If you don’t have the time for that, I’ll provide a brief synopsis.

The story centers around Hannah, a high schooler who takes her own life, but not before explaining her reasons for doing so via 13 audio tape recordings. The topic of each tape is one of her classmates who has contributed to her ultimate decision to commit suicide. Among those reasons are betrayal, rape, objectification, and harassment. Ironically, all things that I have experienced, as well.

This powerful series was profound and resonated deeply with me, and unfortunately, has forced me to face some things that I’ve never truly allowed myself to process. Ever since my body was invaded, it’s felt as though it no longer belongs to me. And sometimes I feel that all I am is a body, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been handled with care-by men since him, or by me. The most practical remedy is to enclose oneself in a pod of isolation-just big enough for one. Because the illusion of control is much more satisfying there.

I’ve been played with, used, ridiculed, and objectified. I am left weak, afraid, and tired.

I’d like to think that I’d never engage in self-harm, but this sudden flooding of relived past experiences has forced me to feel things that I’ve suppressed for far too long, and I’m paying for it now. How does one who’s deceived herself into strength cope with the fact that she’s been wounded the whole time?

I think that the biggest take-away message I got from viewing Thirteen Reasons was that we are reckless. Humans are reckless people with little to no awareness on how significant our actions can be in the grand scheme of things. Our actions have the power to significantly alter another’s perception of self, and the consequences of a poor self-perception can, as in Hannah’s case, be fatal.

Human interaction is a complex phenomenon, and everyone experiences his or her own truth. If you claim that I hurt you, I don’t get to decide that I didn’t. So it’s best to err on the side of safety, right?

Unfortunately, unless you’re Ghandi or Mother Teresa, you will inevitably hurt those you interact with, intentionally or not. But we don’t walk around with a gauge pinned to our shirts, notifying those around us how close we are to our breaking points.

It’d be extremely difficult, and frankly boring (not to mention unrealistic) to treat everyone as if they are fragile as fine China, all of the time for the rest of our lives. That’s where I think that a little self-awareness could go a long way. And believe me, my hands are definitely not clean here.

Watching the way Hannah was treated by her classmates in Thirteen Reasons was piercingly painful for me to watch. I could feel her solitude through my computer screen, and it transported me back to my own lonely years as a high school student. (Which was much more difficult in some ways than my desolate college years now.) Each episode’s conclusion catalyzed another stream of tears from my eyes, and I found myself in bouts of severe regret for the way my life has been going so far.

People can cause a lot of harm, but they can also do a lot of good. The only problem is, once you’ve experienced enough harm, you find that it’d be foolish to put yourself out there in pursuit of some good, because that would leave you vulnerable to even more harm.

So, you withdraw further.

And what’s so noble about being fine all the time, anyway? Why does being able to be okay with people treating you like shit make you strong? Resilient, maybe. But I’d argue that strength is found by allowing yourself to feel real pain-to hurt to the extent that it hurts, and to heal in your own time, and your own way.

That’s what I feel like my experience from this weekend is forcing me to do-to allow myself to not be fine anymore. Because the last thing I am is okay. I am weak, wounded and alone. And if I don’t accept that now and deal with it, the next time I get hurt might pull me completely under water, and I’ll drown.

I fully admit that I’ve done more than my fair share of harm to other people. My hands are far from clean. But I’ve gained a heightened awareness of my deeds and their potential for harm or help to my fellow man.

But why are we so reckless with each others’ lives? Should it not be more of a priority to minimize the pain we inflict? Or are we simply just not aware?

M.

 

 

Progression

According to WordPress, I’ve been at this blogging thing for 3 years now.

But the “I” who started this blog hardly even remotely resembles the “I” who sits behind the keyboard now.

DownWithTheNorm was founded by an 18-year-old girl during the spark of her *formal* feminist awakening. That girl was fiery, angry, confused, and determined to fix the world. Misogyny was her only foe, and she was vigilant and determined to take him down, and took every opportunity to bare her teeth in the face of opposition.

But, as with all sparks, hers was extinguished.

Gradually, she let her inquiring mind guide her as she learned more and more about the world; how it probably works, and how it most likely doesn’t. She developed an air of cynicism, and became understandably tired of fighting the good fight. Others grew tired, bored, annoyed, or a combination of the three of her persistent, yet non-refreshing wordy posts on social media that accomplished nothing but a temporary emotional relief for our young author.

She did her best to keep her mind open, while simultaneously drawing her own independent conclusions. Especially in the context of her religion.

She spent a short duration as a walking contradiction; trying to force her newly acquired world views into a mold that simply would not fit. She wanted to be the change from within, but that resulted in her being pushed out.  She lost friends, but she gained an identity that she felt comfortable in. An authentic lifestyle was drawing nearer and nearer, but exponentially more solitary.

This girl was anxious-so much so that she couldn’t bare to even hold still even for a minute. Sleep was just a five-letter word. She had to be the fastest, the best, the smartest, and the skinniest always. And she was failing miserably at all of it.

But, breaking down turns into breaking through, if you let it.

The girl behind the keyboard is an enhanced version of the girl from 3 years ago.

I’ve had so many experiences that have shaped me into who I am now, whether that be for the better or not. I’m not the girl with the eating disorder anymore. I’m the girl who maybe spends too much time thinking about food and not enough time about breathing, and probably uses her bathroom scale more often than the average joe. And binges on breakfast cereal once in a blue moon. Oh, and HATES going to the gym.

I’m not the Mormon Feminist Anomaly anymore. I’m simply the feminist woman-person who believes that whether or not there is an afterlife is irrelevant. What really matters is that there are plenty of opportunities for me to develop and enhance as many interpersonal relationships as I possibly can during the time that I am allotted here. I believe that this life isn’t a test at all. Rather, it’s an opportunity to develop oneself to the fullest extent possible, and perhaps find an individualistic sense of happiness while we’re at it; whatever that looks like.

And for all of you looking to slap a label on me (because that’s what people do-no judgment), you can call me an Agnostic. Like I said, I’m not looking to shut out any possibilities completely.

I love tattoos, science, coffee, wine, and angry heathen misogyny-laden rap music. And I let myself love these things, because this is MY human experience. And what I choose to drink, put on my body, or listen to, does NOT make me a bad person, contrary to what I was led to believe growing up with religion

I’m not anxious anymore. Through the process of extensive trial and error, I’ve finally settled on a path that suits me. I got a job that makes me excited to wake up in the morning. I have a degree of self-sustainability that I never have had before. I feel liberated and powerful and in control. Rather than planning for my future, I’m actively taking steps toward living it, and I’m doing it calmly, mindfully, and relatively maturely.

As far as interpersonal relationships go, I’ve made strides toward getting out of my own way. I’m still a bit more self-isolating than I’d like to be, but baby steps are the name of the game. I can let loose now, and go out with friends once or twice a week. Hell, sometimes even on a school night! Because, as I mentioned beforehand, in the grand scheme of things, people are what matter. Yeah, going to bed early so I can bring my A game to school and work is important, but so is making time for those I care about. It’s all about balance.

I breathe easy, sleep easy, and am patient and engaged in every moment, which is much more than I could have ever said 3 years ago. I know I’m no sage of wisdom, and that I have much more developing, improvement, and revision to do, but I genuinely like the direction I’m heading.

Documenting my experiences over the past 3 years has been truly enriching for me, and hopefully at least mildly entertaining for you! I genuinely appreciate anyone who has ever and will ever take the time to read anything that I write.

Here’s to 3 more years!

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortitude

This year was hard for more reasons than the ones mainstream media chose to shine its spotlight on, but you already know that. Anyway, it’s over now and 2017 couldn’t possibly be any worse, which brings me an air of optimism for the upcoming 365 days.

I love the end of the year, because it gives me the opportunity to look back on my previous resolutions (if I remember them) and measure just how badly I failed. AND THEN I get to set new ones for the next year. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

In all seriousness, though, I love the concept of a clean slate. I love setting new goals. It makes me feel motivated and revved up to do some serious, lasting self-renovation.

I couldn’t even tell you what my resolutions were last year, so I obviously didn’t accomplish them, but this is a CLEAN SLATE, remember? If I had to guess, though, I’d say it was your typical “I want to lose 15 pounds” or quit sugar or something fitness related.

I weigh the same weight as I have since I graduated high school, and I most certainly did not quit sugar because sugar is awesome and I like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Cadbury Mini Eggs. A lot.

New year’s resolution #1: Stick to my new year’s resolutions.

All joking aside, 2017 is going to be my year. Because I am in control of me. I’m choosing to focus my energy on lasting changes that will result in me becoming a more balanced, healthy, strong, independent individual.

I esteem myself as an extremely ambitious individual who just so happens to have an anxiety problem. Anxiety victims can tell you just how severely it can hinder your progress in any and every facet of your life. If I am to realize my academic an professional goals, I need to minimize and eliminate as many obstacles as necessary.

So, I have resolved first and foremost to adjust my lifestyle to one that is as anti-anxiety producing as possible. I have already gotten a jump start on this goal by adopting my trusted feline friend. leo

Meet Leo, which is short for Leonardo. He was named after our favorite cinema star and recent Oscar winner, Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s a tuxedo cat, so I often call him Mr. Sir. He has successfully prevented numerous panic attacks, binge/purge episodes, and been a phenomenal dance partner to Katy Perry jams around our quaint, cozy apartment. He is my light and my life, and I love him very much.

So already, I’ve made significant changes that have made my anxiety more manageable. However, my final semester of my undergraduate program is upon us, so I’m expecting a bumpy ride for these next 4 months, but I assure you it’s nothing Leo and I can’t handle together.

In addition to improving myself as an individual, I’d really like to take this year and focus on making a difference in the lives of those around me.

This year, I’ve resolved to do one simple thing per day to build up a fellow woman. Because frankly, being a woman is, in my experience, no walk in the park, and I’m sick and tired of the way in which society has turned us against each other. I’m done being a pawn in the game of female competition.

Women are not my competition, and treating them as such does nothing but hinder our progress toward gender equality. I am officially pledging myself to the pro-woman team. Instead of glaring jealously at a girl’s outfit in passing, I’m going to compliment her shoes, her blouse, or her hair. If she needs a night to vent about her day at work, her relationship with her family/spouse/significant other, I’ll head on over with my good friends Ben and Jerry and one hell of a pep talk. I’m here to help.

Obviously I’ll gladly help people of all genders in any capacity that I can, but I really want to focus on helping my fellow women this year, because I have had many hard experiences in my life and I really could have used some encouragement, a listening ear, or a confidence boost. So this is me returning the favor to those who have assisted me in these ways.

May we all learn to see each other as allies, not enemies.

Happy  New Year’s, loves. I hope that together, we can help each other build ourselves back up from last year, and live happier, healthier, and stronger this year and for the rest to come.

 

M.

Ubiety

Y’know how when you ask someone how they are doing, you expect them to say, “good, and you?” even if they don’t mean it?

Well, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I can provide that customary answer with genuineness.

How are you?

Good, and you?

I am good.

I am doing well.

I am doing well, despite the tragically disheartening election (that is as political as I am going to get on this post-no bad vibes here), rapidly decreasing temperatures, and hasty intensification of menstrual symptoms.

I am doing well, without SSRI’s or therapy sessions.

I am doing well, despite the fact that my diet has entirely derailed over the past week or so and I have only been able to make it to the gym once. I’ve tasted chocolate and bread and beer and allowed myself to be filled, where a few weeks ago, I’d eagerly and dedicatedly attempt to purge it all from my body.

I am doing so well that those around me are starting to notice. I’ve gone from enduring my daily obligations to truly experiencing even the most mundane of tasks. I’ve been spending less time maintaining my continual presence on social media or allowing my hair style to dictate my mood.

I’ve been spending less time on the scale and more time in the quality assurance department of my social sphere. I’ve been smiling more, and not for the sake of selfies or snapchat. I’m letting out deep-belly laughs until my abs feel sore. My tunnel vision has broadened, and I’m seeing more and more of the bigger picture, I think.

I’m sleeping longer and deeper, and I’m truly listening when you talk. The air I breathe fills my lungs to capacity and I can feel it energizing my cells before I release it in an exhale. The anxiety cloud still lingers over my shoulder, but it trails behind on a longer leash. I’m nervous and scared and excited, but have shrunken these legitimate emotions to a reasonable and respectable proportion.

I’m doing all that I can now to prepare for later without sacrificing all that right now has to offer me.

I’m no longer allowing external expectations to dictate my personal development, morality, appearance, or cognitions. I have removed the shackles of arbitrary guilt, and traded them for a personalized air of humanitarian passion.

I pride myself in being a life-long student, and I am learning more and more about what the point to this entire living thing could possibly be, and as much as I hate to admit, the clichés are probably right.

It’s about the journey, not the destination. Blah, blah, blah-I’m annoyed already. But in all sincerity, I truly believe that the whole point of experiencing a life worth living is to learn how to be truly happy, and maybe help one or two others find their own brand of happiness while I’m at it.

In order to do this, though, sometimes you have to let go of obstacles that restrict you from doing so. And for myself, that means I have to ease off the gas pedal.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still the overly ambitious, in-over-her-head, millennial perfectionist you all know and love, but my pace has been altered.

One day, I’ll have that perfect bikini body featured on all of my fitness Pins. But today, I will munch on crackers and sip diet soda to alleviate my unsettled stomach, and perhaps go for a jog later.

One day, I’ll be conducting pharmacological research, aiding in medicinal advances that can one day significantly improve the quality of life of another. But today, I am going to leisurely study for the GRE and beg around for research lab experience to add to my Curriculum Vitae.

One day, I will leave my residence and immerse myself in a plethora of other cultures, and allow myself to marvel at all that I see, without regard to what time or day it is. But today, I will take scenic drives up the canyon and gape at my own backyard with true appreciation.

I’ve wasted too great of a portion of the one life I’ve been given being anxious, sad, and suffocated by self-deprecation.

I hope all of you have already come to realize all of this.

Here’s to actualizing personal fulfillment.

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solicitude

Guess who’s back. Shady’s back.

Oh, and me.

It’s funny how I  attempt to maintain a blog during the school semester. Turns out, it simply cannot be done.

Today marks the conclusion of my first (and last) summer semester of college. That’s right-I voluntarily signed up to attend a 7:30 AM lecture twice a week at a school located 45 minutes from my apartment.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention I moved out?

I am now the resident of my state’s capital city. I have a “Maddie-sized” basement apartment in a cute, old-fashioned house near downtown. I live all by myself, though I had a beta fish named Brendon Urie for a time, but he died within two weeks. May he rest in peace.

Anyway, turns out moving out is really super duper fun. Nobody gets mad at you for listening to the same Twenty-One Pilots song on loop for three hours. Nobody makes you do the dishes or sweep the floor. Nobody tells you to put pants on. Or to do your laundry. Or to feed yourself.

Nobody except you.

Sometimes my dishes pile up. Sometimes my lightbulb burns out in my bathroom and I shower in the dark for 6 days before doing anything about it. Sometimes a spider emerges from the corner of the room and I spray it with Raid until it ceases to move. Sometimes my fridge is empty so I eat peanut butter for dinner.

C’est la vie.

Initially, moving out had done wonders for my anxiety. I felt like I had much more control over my life. After all, I’m an adult with my own place and everything that happens here within my own place is entirely up to me. Liberating, yet terrifying.

It turns out that you can’t simply abandon your anxious, perfectionistic self. When I moved, she moved with me. As I mentioned before, I was enrolled in summer classes at my university, in addition to beginning a program to become a certified pharmacy technician. As the end of the semester neared, my body decided that we were exhausted, and before I knew it, I was having a panic attack at work.

I was “processing shipment”, a term in the retail world that means taking clothes out of bags, putting sensors on them, and hanging them on hangers. Anyway, as I was doing this, the room gradually began feeling hotter and hotter. I broke out in a sweat, and found it difficult to breathe. I fanned myself, gasped for air, and finally retreated to the break room in the back, doubled over, and hyperventilating.

I sat in a chair, cradling my head in my hands, and tried to force myself to breathe. The air kept getting thinner, and the temperature kept rising, and finally, I ran out of my workplace-tears and mascara streaming down my flushed cheeks-and was on my way to the doctor’s office.

That was rock bottom.

Since then, I’ve taken some serious therapeutic action. As advised by my doctor, I’ve been exercising regularly, getting proper nutrition, and removing stressors from my life. I quit my job (the one that housed my anxiety attack) and moved to a much more flexible, relaxed one. I’m taking the fall semester off at the Uni (a concept that initially gave me much more anxiety than any school semester ever could) and now I basically get to work when I want to and attend Pharmacy Tech school.

Things finally feel manageable. Things feel comfortable. Suspiciously comfortable.

I’ve noticed over the past few days that just when I feel like I’m allowing myself to enjoy life, I am overcome with guilt. My brain buzzes with constant, self-shaming thoughts: “I shouldn’t be this happy, I shouldn’t have this much free time, I shouldn’t sit still or relax.”

And so I don’t.

The best way I can describe chronic anxiety is when your mind races so fast that it forces your body to attempt to keep up with it-an impossible task. From the moment I open my eyes to the time I close them for the night, my entire body is buzzing. That’s the best word for it.

Then you combine that with eating disordered thoughts, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It’s been seven years since I’ve been weight-restored, and I still can’t eat a soft pretzel (one of my ABSOLUTE favorite foods) without mulling over it for the next three days, not resting nor sleeping until I perceive that I’ve adequately purged the calories from my system by means of vigorous cardiovascular exercise.

I want so badly to let myself be happy, but the truth is, I’m afraid of what that entails.

 

M.

 

 

 

Truant

Among my extensive list of obsessive-compulsive behaviors is that of impeccable punctuality and spotless attendance, whether it be school, the dentist, work, a sushi date, my therapist-the point is, I may be a lot of things, but a no-show is not one of them. This may be due in part to my short-lived exposure to reception work, in which I found extreme irritability in people who were either late for or completely missed their appointments without the courtesy of prior notification.

I am excruciatingly punctual to literally everything, but additionally, I will have woken up at an obscenely early hour that morning to allow time for my thorough daily “get ready to conquer the world” routine. And by obscenely early, I mean like 5:00 AM.

Upon awakening, my little brain goes immediately into hyper drive, and it remains in hyper drive for the duration of my waking hours. I immediately spring out of bed (not once in my almost 21 years of life have I ever hit the snooze button) and prepare coffee, as I couldn’t possibly generate enough energy naturally to remain alert for even a moment. Then, I shower, put on a full face of makeup, curl my hair (which is what keeps my biceps sculpted), and finally put on the outfit, complete with jewelry and accessories, that I’d spent a half an hour the previous night assembling.

Every. Damn. Morning.

I am the first to arrive to my 7:30 AM Research Methods and Design lecture, having consumed the exact same, low-calorie, perfectly balanced breakfast and ANOTHER K-cup of coffee beforehand. At this point, I’ve already been awake for two and a half hours, and require more espresso.

I attend to the rest of my responsibilities throughout the day with the same level of rigor, to the extent that I panic if things don’t go perfectly as planned.

Months and months of maintaining such a rigid lifestyle cause periodic wall-hitting. I hit one of those walls today.

Today is Tuesday, which means that I had an appointment with my therapist after my 7:30 AM lecture, followed by a 3-hour class at my local community college.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs previous, I hit a wall today. After my appointment, my brain flipped a switch from its anxiety-ridden normalcy to a state of zen. I made the impulsive decision to not submit to my rigid, perfect schedule today. I breathed in some of that Serenity Essential Oil stuff that I keep in my backpack as a preventative tool for anxiety attacks, and instead of speeding to make it to my pharmacy tech class on time, I drove home.

That was two hours ago.

Now, I am laying in my bed without pants on, messy hair, and no guilt or anxious, racing heart. I feel pretty damn liberated.

The thing about living with anxiety (and perfectionism)  is that every little mistake, shortcoming, or thing that didn’t go as planned feels damning and the guilt that follows is impossible to escape from.

I get trapped in my own head. I try and fail to keep up with the pace of my eternally racing thoughts. My heart races, my palms sweat, and my breathing turns shallow.

But not today.

Today, I took a personal day from myself.

M.