Living, Learning, Dreaming

The Aftermath of the Holiday Season: When Mental Illness Takes the Happy out of the Holidays

By January 13, 2018 Living

Hi everyone! I hope you all made it through the holidays and are starting to get back into your routines. The 2017 holiday season is finally over and I feel like I can finally take a deep breath and start finding myself in the rubble. I’m not going to lie, 2017 was rough and I’m glad to be done with it. I am a bit annoyed with myself that I seem to be saying that every year. Surely there were good things too, I just tend to remember the embarrassing public anxiety attacks and family fights trying to convince them that I am not magically cured of my depression and anxiety.

The last few years have been really dark. I’m haunted by thoughts of suicide on a daily basis and cut more scars into my body than I can count. I’ve fought hard to live when it seemed like every cell in my body was begging to die. The loneliness of the holidays made that all rapidly boil to the surface. The commercials, movies, and honestly every holiday display they have is centered on getting back and spending time with family. I felt like an outsider in my family for most of my life, and this year was especially terrible.

On Christmas Eve, my younger sister and I have always had a sleepover. We stay up late, eat junk food, and watch Christmas movies. Sometimes we even play video games. Last year was kind of boring because she suddenly go sick, but we still spent time together. When we were little, we would sneak downstairs and check out the items in our stockings and make sure Santa got the cookies. I remember setting my alarm for the middle of the night so we could make sure we would wake up when our parents were in bed. We would set another one for midnight so we could sing happy birthday to Jesus and be the first to say Merry Christmas to each other. We’ve been doing this sleepover since my sister was old enough to sleep in a bed with me.

This year, we made plans to do that again. We have our own place now, so it was mostly just supposed to be Christmas movies and exchanging gifts for each other before we went to our mother’s house in the morning. It was all downhill from there. My sister suddenly decided that she didn’t want to be in the living room with me. She stayed in her room, watching Youtube videos and texting her boy friend. We didn’t exchange presents because she apparently needed another shade of nude lipstick from one of the Youtube people and didn’t buy me a present. Meanwhile, I had had hers for over a month and had been planning for it since she mentioned it in October. I spent most of Christmas Eve crying. I wasn’t prepared to grieve the loss of our final Christmas tradition. It hurt so much more than I could describe. I just wanted to die so I could escape the worthlessness I felt at the rejection of the one person in the world I thought would never hurt me like that. I even tried to reach out to the suicide hotline and after 2 hours, I gave up trying to get through. It just made the rejection that much stronger.

Christmas day was even worse. After a 2.5 hour drive through a blizzard to get to my mother’s home, I arrived to a new round of criticism. My road rage filled sister had been less than pleasant on the way there and nothing I did calmed her anger at the snow. After only an hour of being at my mother’s, my sister and mother proceeded to argue over who had to take me home. My sister was planning on staying at her boyfriend’s house that afternoon even though he wasn’t going to be there until almost 9 that night. My mom was sore from radiation and had thought she pulled a muscle getting off the table (turns out it was a broken bone). After arguing over which person had the misfortune of taking me home, my step dad said that he would. Later on, I tried to tell my mother that I was upset about that, and somehow it came around to my poor housekeeping skills. I don’t know how to talk to her at this point. I shouldn’t have to apologize for my mental illness! It takes so much energy to do little things like feed myself and brush my teeth. When you are struggling to exist, vacuuming is not a priority. The icing on the cake of that miserable day was that the show I eventually put on in the living room in hopes of my sister joining me, was the same freaking show she ended up watching in her room. I am proud to say I only ended up crying in the bathroom 3 times during Christmas breakfast. When I finally made it back to the empty apartment, I spent the night crying until midnight and finally went to sleep.

New Years Eve was about the same. My sister had just got back from a family trip to my grandparents house down south (that I had to help them rent a car for but didn’t get invited to) and texted me to let me know she wouldn’t be home because she was going to a family party that I wasn’t invited to. My depression was just overwhelming at that point. I spent a few hours not sure if I wanted to even be alive for 2018. Most of my friends were at their own parties. It just reinforced to me how truly alone I am.

After calming down over the last few days, I’ve decided that I need to make more of an effort to stand up for myself to my family. I’m glad to be alive for 2018. I hope that despite the past few weeks, 2018 will be okay, maybe even good. I think part of the reason I was so upset was that I finally saw myself as worthy to be part of something and then was incredibly excluded. I want to be hopeful about the coming year, but realistically, bad things are probably going to happen, I’m going to have tough moments and breakdowns, and I’m sure I will still have family problems. Despite all of that, I think there is a reason I’ve stayed alive this long. A tiny part of me knows that somewhere in me is the potential to help people with my life and I’m finally letting that part have space in my life.

Sometimes it’s really hard to keep on living. I think I’m up for the challenge.

Love, Tina

 

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Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear

By January 11, 2018 Living

Living, Learning, Dreaming is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

An Honest Review of Max Lucado’s Fearless

Quick Summary:

What are you afraid of? Disappointing God? The future? Shallow books that leave you wanting more information? (If that last on is a significant fear in your life, don’t bother reading this book.) Most chapters follow a similar pattern. Lucado spends most of the chapter outlining a fear through a personal story, usually with some sort of name dropping. At some point, there will be a scripture or a paraphrase of the scripture to try and show God in that particular fear. The ends of the chapters do not really have any calls to action. They tend to end with a conclusion to the personal story and a mention that you should trust God in that fear.

Review:

As I’m sure you gathered, I was a not a huge fan of this book. As a type A personality, I thrive off of the practical. I often felt that Lucado’s answer to my fears were to get over it. Simple right? Trust God. Pray it all away. To his credit, the discussion questions at the end did show an attempt at depth. This book is likely much better for groups than for individuals. On a positive note, this book was quite easy to read. In my opinion, it flowed really well. You don’t need a large vocabulary or a fancy religion degree to understand this book. The chapters where quite short and it was easy to read a few of them at a time.

Who Should Read this Book?

If you are really new to Christianity or someone who has never really put much thought into the relationship between faith and fear, this may be helpful to get you to start thinking about the topic. I would recommend reading this in a group because this book is not overly helpful when read by yourself. This book is probably best read in a small church group or even a high school youth group.

All things considered, I give Fearless a 3/5. I would like to think there are good intentions behind this book, but the execution left me wanting so much more. The anecdotes rubbed me the wrong way and I felt like I was being talked at rather than talked to. That being said, it could be a good jumping off point to study the topic in more depth.

Have you read this book or other works by Max Lucado? What did you think? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!

Have a great day!

Love, Tina

 

 

 

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What I’ve Learned in My First Months Working at a Daycare

By January 6, 2018 Learning

After months of interviews and job hunting, someone was finally willing to take a chance on me. In a way, I’m glad it took so long. It’s not that I couldn’t have done the other jobs. Most of the ones I applied for were entry level anyway. It all came together so that I could apply for a job at a local daycare. It was still scary trying to get the interview and then go through a rather long hiring process and every step of the way I was terrified. I mean there was a physical and background check and fingerprinting. I had to list my addresses over the last 28 years. I’m only 21 y’all. I had to try to find every address I’ve ever had. We didn’t move a ton, but every couple of years we had a new address. Some of the places I didn’t even bother to learn because we were only there about a year. Thankfully, my mom remembered most of the ones I didn’t know. All of this work and then I could finally start. Except most of starting was computer training. After what felt like a year, even though it was really only a month, I officially became a substitute in the baby and toddler rooms. If you are considering a job at a daycare, here’s some of the things they don’t tell you when you are hired.

Most kids are very aware of stranger danger!

Some kids are more outgoing and will welcome a new playmate. Other kids are going to be terrified by your presence in the classroom. Most, are going to be in between. They are going to push and test every boundary they can. Don’t be surprised when they demand another teacher helps them or refuse to listen to you at first. They just want to see if they can get away with it. I’ve even had kids try to hit me and untie my shoes! Other coworkers have been smashed with toys and have been bitten. I guess in comparison the shoes thing is pretty minor. The younger the kid is, the more they will be scared of a new face in the room. The older they get, the more they want to push their luck. Let them know you love them and rules are there to keep everyone safe. Eventually, even the most stubborn kids will warm up to you, although they may not like you still. Not everyone in the world will like you and kids are no exception. Try to keep in mind the stress they must feel at someone new.

Not every teacher will share your enthusiasm.

Burn out is going to happen with most jobs and daycare is no exception. Going into it, I had read a bunch of articles about how high the turnover is and how low the pay is. I read about terrible parents and challenging kids. I knew it was going to be hard, but I really truly love working with kids and I figured I would be with others who did too. That wasn’t exactly the case. While most teachers do like the kids in their classes, the toddler room seemed to be an especially negative place. At least once a week the teachers have all said how much they hate their job and how I will learn to hate it once I have been there awhile. Not exactly a warm welcome!! I was shocked how frequently my ideas were shot down. Let’s have circle time after nap. Why don’t we do some exercise games since they can’t go outside now that it’s cold? What about this craft? What kind of a response did I get? No. No. No. I mean I got out puzzles when we had 4 kids (The room maxes at 15 and we usually end up close to that.) and a teacher complained about it because that meant we would have to help them with it. I was really shocked and discouraged by this. I’ve learned to just try new things when that teacher isn’t there. It’s hard being a substitute because the classroom isn’t yours and you don’t have final say on things. It’s definitely hard to find a balance between respecting old ways of doing things and trying new things for the sake of the kids. Ultimately, you don’t have to like your coworkers, but you have to learn to respect them and their experiences.

You will never be financially compensated for all the work you do.

If you are looking for a great job with nice benefits and enough money to live off of, don’t work at a daycare. I am working at a non-profit so I really didn’t expect anything more than minimum wage. I don’t have any degrees in child development or teaching or anything. That being said, I look after your little one all day. I clean up their huge messy diapers. I help potty train. I wash their toys. I pat or rock them to sleep and do everything I can to keep them from screaming their head off because they miss you. Where are the parents in all of this? Some of them are working for sure. Some of them are sleeping. Some are leaving their kids there the maximum hours they can in order to enjoy their adult time. Most teachers end up having to buy things for their classroom. Not every kid has a snack. We bring in tissues and hand sanitizer. Some teachers even bring in toys and spare clothes/shoes for the kids. A lot of teachers go out of their way to make sure the day runs smoothly and sometimes that means taking out of their own tiny paycheck to get things that parents should have brought in the first place. 10 hour days with a half hour lunch break is not always fun. You do the work of at least 2 people and spend part of your check on the classroom. A lot of people have second jobs or a spouse with a high paycheck. Yes, it’s really great working with kids, but it’s hard to sustain yourself over the long term at a job like this.

It will be completely worth it

Even if this isn’t a long-term job for you, there are a lot of great things that will help you. I know more about taking care of babies now than I did from just reading about them. I now have a great list of foods to not send to a daycare. (Seriously guys, the sticky fruit filled bars need to stop.) I get to play with kids and watch them hit milestones that really are amazing. Some of these kids used to be so shy around me and now some of them even come up and hug me when I get to work! Especially given that a lot of these kids have been through more in their 4(ish) years of life than most go through in 20, it is really rewarding knowing you can help these kids feel loved and happy. Also, from a mental health perspective, this job is so much better with my depression and anxiety. It’s still stressful, but it’s much more manageable and makes me feel more “normal.” Honestly, it’s really satisfying coming home every night and knowing that I did my best and made kids smile. I can actually be proud of my work. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and there are days that are frustrating beyond belief, but if you are up for the challenge, working at a daycare may be a great jumping off point to help you move towards your long-term career goals. Who knows, you may like it so much that you stay there forever!

Love, Tina

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New Year, New You? No Thanks!

By January 1, 2018 Dreaming

It’s been 2018 for about 15 hours now and I don’t know about you, but I am so over the hype. All over social media you see phrases like, “new year, new me.” It’s a great marketing ploy. I mean during the few hours I had HGTV on their commercials were primarily try this diet or this exercise equipment. New years specials are everywhere! Why? Don’t get me wrong, I am all about a fresh start. This is a great time a year for some new things. I like to take a moment to do some New Years cleaning and get old clutter and expired items out of my home. It’s a great time of year for it since most of us have time off. Some people really like the idea of a push. This is the time most people are really making an effort to change. The downside is that most of the change doesn’t make it to February.

Do you know what this is NOT a good time of year for? Telling people they are bad how they are. That’s exactly what all of these commercials and typical resolutions are saying. Try this new diet because you are too fat. Work out here because you are weak and need to be fit. Guess what? We all have things we want to change about ourselves, but that doesn’t mean there is anything really wrong about you now. If you are kind and not hurting anyone, chances are you are already a pretty great person. You don’t need to change everything about yourself and have a big makeover/transformation because we all got new calendars. Make a resolution this year to be excited about what you have accomplished every day and be proud of yourself for the little things.

There’s nothing wrong about a New Year’s Resolution. Just make sure you take a moment to think about the reason you are setting this goal in the new year. Is it because it’s something you are interested in? Or is it because you feel bad about an aspect of your life? This can be a great time of year to challenge yourself to do the things you’ve dreamed about. That’s really exciting! Make sure you are doing it for yourself, not because you don’t like something about yourself. You are already wonderful!! Don’t forget that in the upcoming year!

If you need a little help following through on your resolution, check out this article about sticking with your goals!

Wishing you a safe and happy new year!

Love, Tina

 

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Did You Remember this Back to School Essential?

By September 8, 2017 Dreaming, Learning

It’s that time of year again! Back to school and back to college. I’m guessing the vast majority of you have started by now. You’ve probably sat through classes and unpacked your dorms and realized you forgot a few things. Maybe you forgot a trashcan for your dorm or a hand held pencil sharpener for exams? I hope none of you forgot a charger! (Bonus tip: Have a laptop and cell phone charger at home always and at college always. You do not want to be in a situation where you forget your charger and can’t find someone with the same laptop as you!!) But, did you remember the essential you need to get through this semester? Never fear! If you did forget it, it’s really easy to get!

Are you ready for it? Grab your quietly sharpened pencil and a random piece of paper. The thing you need to have with you at the start of every semester? A goal!! Yep, you read that right! I know it’s not January, but a new semester and especially a new school year is the perfect time to stop and keep some short term and long term goals in mind. In a previous post, I went over the basics of setting a goal. If you need a refresher, you can read that here.

Take an hour and make a goal and a plan for this semester.

This could be the most important hour of your entire semester! Don’t blow this off in 5 minutes and tell yourself a lie about how you will stop procrastinating this year for sure. To get you started, take some time to reflect and answer some these questions:

  1. Why am I studying in the first place? What is motivating me to get this degree?
  2. What was the most stressful part of last semester and what are some things that were in my control that I could have prevented? (Obviously, if something happened and you got a concussion in sports or something serious happened, you can’t plan for that. Don’t beat yourself up if/when that happens.)
  3. What am I really trying to achieve and how far am I willing to go?
  4. What choices do I want to make that I believe will ultimately leave me happy and healthy at the end of this semester?
  5. When Christmas break comes, how will I gauge if this semester has been a success?

Something that really helped me in school was to keep a picture by my bed that reflected where I wanted to be in the long run. Between labs and exams, it’s hard for me to keep the big picture in focus. I’m a visual person, for me seeing a reminder of my goal every day was really helpful. Make your goal something that can be represented in a way that makes you happy to see it. Don’t let yourself feel down if you find yourself half way through the semester and you realize you are off track.

We all go into a new semester and a new school year with somewhat of a goal. Maybe you need x hours of community service and y GPA to get into such and such grad school and you revolve around that. Maybe you are wanting to explore and have adventure and you want to travel to this or that place on break and meet as many new people as you can. There’s nothing wrong with having an idea of what you want to achieve this year. An idea is a start and that’s really more than some people have.

Taking the time to stop and reflect on what you really want out of this year might help you to stop feeling like you are coasting through. When that half way point comes and everything feels like it’s burning down in flames, having a goal to reset and help you catch your breath will definitely be helpful!

So what are your new semesters goals? Let me know in the comments!

 

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The Ugly Side of Depression

By August 19, 2017 Living

While I’m glad to at least see depression posts on social media, some of them are really irritating. Depression isn’t always, “Oh I’m sad. I better go walk in the rain,” or “Boo hoo I better cry until my mascara streams down my face and I can take a dramatic picture.” Don’t get me wrong, that happens sometimes. It’s just that these well meaning posts tend to make it look like depression is this glamorous thing and it’s not. I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone, not even my worst enemy. I actually love going through walks in the rain. I love a good thunderstorm. I’m always terrified of getting struck by lightning and it’s such an amazing feeling! That terror comes from that little part of me that is trying to keep me alive. When you spend most of your day haunted by little thoughts that taunt you and make you wonder if your life has meaning, it’s nice to know there’s a little bit of self preservation left in you!

For me, depression is having no energy for anything ever. It’s having a coffee and having motivation for maybe an hour or two, starting a project, and then becoming completely overwhelmed by it and stopping. It’s no longer being able to do the crafts I desperately miss because I think they will never be good enough. It’s working up the courage to start them only to end up needing a nap half way through and never finishing. The lack of energy is so discouraging. The moments where I can do things are always over shadowed by the realization that I don’t do them the way I used to. It makes me realize that there is still some passion left in me, but it’s being swallowed up by my darkness.

Depression is starting a million books or t.v. shows and crying so hard over them you can’t continue. If I cry over my life, it maybe lasts three minutes before I get angry at myself and stop or become so numb I couldn’t cry again if I wanted to. Having something, however little, that makes me cry is so scary. I don’t know if I will be able to stop. Chances are, I haven’t felt something in days and now it’s like I’m feeling all of those emotions I missed in a matter of minutes. I started crying over an episode of Sophia the First because of the beautiful display of sisterhood and I got upset my relationship with my sister isn’t that strong. For those of you who haven’t heard of that show, it’s target audience is like 3-5 year olds. That’s right, seeing something remotely positive made me cry harder than the target audience at nap time.

One of the worst parts of depression for me is feeling so completely alone. It’s like every other disease or disorder in the world can be talked about and well received except some form of mental illness. The people that tell me to just get over it and stop being so full of self-pity make me so upset. You wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to just breathe or a deaf person to just listen better, but somehow it’s okay to tell me, “Well, you should get over yourself,” because I have depression. I would like to just yell at people and tell them it’s a lack of serotonin, not a lack of character. Of course, I have the self-confidence of a skittish squirrel so, that will never happen. Every now and then, I meet a rare gem of a person who sees that I’m a hot mess and actually cares. When I was at college, I had a professor who would make a point to say good morning to me even if I was in the side room studying on a Saturday. Stuff like that always made me cry because someone in the world actually cared.

That lack of energy and the loneliness are the worst parts for me. They seem to really feed into each other. Right now, my apartment is beyond a mess. It’s a border line hoarding situation at this point. I have a chair that I sit in and then piles of stuff around me. Some of it is garbage that I’m too overwhelmed to go take outside because somebody might see me. Some of it is clothes that are dirty but can’t be taken care of because my clean clothes are still in the hamper waiting to be folded. The mess is embarrassing. I don’t have bugs or anything terrible, but I also don’t have anywhere for anyone to sit down (or stand really). The rest of the stuff on the floor and shoved on shelves are things that started with good intentions and I ran out of steam for. I have half done crafts and barely read books that I can’t stand to part with because throwing them out is throwing away the part of me I miss. Candles that I’m afraid to light. Dirty dishes because my sink is also full. The worst for me is when I go to the store and tell myself, “This is the month I will eat healthy and cook for myself!” I proceed to spend money I don’t have on produce that I will barely eat. Chopping up veggies or baking chicken feels terrible once I get home. There’s a part of me that is too depressed to even want to eat because I feel like I don’t deserve food. The rest of me is too tired to cook and too tired to throw away the expired food right away.

Depression really is a battle. It’s not taking a bath because it reminds you that you want to drown. It’s trying to reclaim parts of yourself only to leave tasks incomplete. It’s being surrounded by good intentions and having no energy to follow through even though your quality of life would greatly improve. Depression is ugly, but it shouldn’t be shameful. We need to talk about the ugly side of depression and stop misusing the term or accusing people of just being too stubborn to change. I don’t know anyone who would choose this life for themselves. I certainly wouldn’t. We need to stop glamorizing depression on social media. Depression sucks. It’s ugly. It’s messy. But you know what? It’s not something that makes you a bad person or a dramatic person. I hope reading this inspires you to share your struggles with mental illness!

What are some ugly things about your depression? Please leave some thoughts in the comments. It may feel like it, but we aren’t alone.

 

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Your Health is More Important Than Your Grades

By August 9, 2017 Learning, Living

I know what you are thinking. “Well that may work for some majors, but not mine. Do you know how hard it is to get into ___ school?”

I was a pre med student at a college that basically sets you up to fail. I know the game. We don’t sleep for weeks and run off of anything with caffeine in pursuit of the ever elusive 4.0 that may or may not be enough to get us to our dream graduate program.  5 hours in lab after a morning in classes, then study groups to salvage what’s left of that assignment. Another group to finish the lab write up. Lord have mercy on your soul if you are trying to get through a group project. You don’t have enough time in your schedule and somehow you are supposed to coordinate 3 schedules. Oh and that was just for Tuesday. Every day of the week is like that. When you finally get on break you have a pile of back work to do and can’t do any of it because you spend break sleeping and relaxing because you are so worn out from classes.

What if I told you the habits you make now will follow you for the rest of your life?

Now that’s a scary thought! Is this cycle of exhaustion, procrastination, and panic over deadlines really how you want to spend the rest of your life? It’s not how I want to spend mine.

What if I told you it didn’t have to be like that?

I made the very scary decision this year to take time off of college to focus on my health. In the process, I even found out I had underlying medical conditions that were making it more difficult to learn! Even without those conditions, I wasn’t healthy. I was easily drinking 12 cups of coffee a day in a desperate attempt to stay awake. The most sleep I got was when I contracted a terrible stomach bug and slept for 3 days. The terrible part of all of this, is that so many people brushed it off as normal. “Oh, college kids usually don’t get enough sleep.” That may be a sad truth, but it is not something we should be complacent about!! A culture of sick and stressed students should not be acceptable. Take some deep breaths and start making changes in the right direction. You can have the best grades in the world, but if you are too sick to have a job, your degree will be worthless. Don’t be like me and wait until you collapse to get help.

What are some easy steps I can take?

  • GET ACCOUNTABLE

Changes are hard to make. Changes that go against the norm are even harder. Find an accountability buddy or a mentor. You need someone older and wiser to challenge you to get out of that pattern. Sure, your roommate can help, but when you both have weak moments, an all-nighter and a pot of coffee per person is going to be much easier to give into. Establish a routine to check in with that person (daily or weekly) to celebrate wins and recover from losses.

  • SET REASONABLE GOALS

Don’t try to do everything new at once. Do you drink a crazy number of caffeinated beverages? Cut back slowly. Change out water where you used to have your third glass of tea in the morning. Do you sleep less than 8 hours? Try slowly adding a half hour extra to sleep each week. Get a real alarm clock and turn off your phone after 10. Write down every goal you make and post it where you can see it. Ever hear of out of sight, out of mind? You don’t want that happening with your goals. Whatever you decide,  have patience with yourself.

  • SEEK OUTSIDE HELP

There’s no shame in seeking a little help. A lot of college campuses have access to counselors that are very familiar with the challenges we face as young 20 somethings. If you are out in the work force and finding your college habits are creeping up and dragging you down, there are always free chat sites to help you vent. It is also a good idea to contact your insurance company and see which counselors in your area are covered. (If you are like me and will be in counseling for a decade, it’s helpful to find someone who is affordable!)

 

Deciding to put your health first takes a lot of courage in a culture that does everything it can to tear you down. Don’t be discouraged if your plans don’t come perfectly true. You will probably still have times where you struggle and that’s okay. Don’t stop trying! You are more important than a GPA! You are more important than some arbitrary time line that says you need to have y degree in z years in order to have a job/home/marriage/kids by the time you are x years old. People live to be crazy old now! You have plenty of time to change your major or change your career. Be brave and put your health first!

 

What are some struggles you have putting your health first? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!

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Let’s Talk about Suicide

By January 2, 2017 Learning, Living

Hi everyone,

Thanks for taking a moment to read through this rather somber post. A lot of people are impacted by suicide. Many of us know people who have either attempted or completed suicide. If you are like me, you are one of those people. A lot of the problem we face in this world is that people have a hard time recognizing mental illness. They don’t know the signs that someone is hurting or maybe even feel helpless and don’t know what to do if they suspect someone is suicidal.

Unfortunately, ignoring any potential problems is the worst thing a person could do. Many people brush off signs and rationalize away any problems they see because they don’t want to offend the at risk person. Sometimes people fear that talking about it will put the idea in a person’s head. This is beyond WRONG! If you think someone is at risk, TALK TO THEM. You are not putting ideas in their head. Chances are, they’ve been there for quite some time.

 

So, what do I need to know?

It all starts with thoughts. Every now and again a person may begin to think that the world would be better off without them. When those thoughts start to pile on, a person who is suffering may begin to think this most of the days of the week. During this time, thoughts can change from a general idea to more specific ideas. A person may begin to think of all the reasons why they think the world would be better off or how their pain is becoming unbearable. At some point the thoughts turn not only into a need to escape the pain, but a means to escape it. When the thoughts turn into a plan, things are pretty serious. This is the point where people could be hospitalized to prevent them from harming themselves. Once a person gets a plan, they begin to find a means to go through with the plan. Once they have the means, there is little to prevent them from completing suicide unless someone steps in and helps them. This is why it is so important to talk to people about it. The vast majority of the time, people who are hurting want help. They want a way out that doesn’t include dying, but have a hard time seeing how things could get better.

If you fear someone is in immediate danger of harming themselves, please DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE! Be sure to call emergency responders if a person is about to harm herself/himself or someone else. You may not be able to get the person to the hospital on your own, they are trained for these situations. While you are staying with the person, please for the love of all that is holy LISTEN TO THEM! As they saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth, that should tell you something. You can still talk to them, but active listening is so crucial. I can’t speak for others, but for me, after feeling like I was alone in my pain, it meant the world to me that someone was willing to listen to my struggles. Focusing on listening will also help you avoid saying anything that might make you worthy of being slapped. You know these phrases: you just have to get over it, just push through, I know exactly how you are feeling because my balloon floated away once and I was so depressed, it’s not a big deal because everyone goes through tough times, God never gives you more than you can handle… I could write an entire post just focused on well meaning, but poorly delivered advice. Overall, if you are talking with someone who is hurting, it’s okay to share a hurt you have that may help the person relate to you better, but remember that it is not a contest. You are not trying to one up your friend, especially if that friend is or even could be suicidal! Ask yourself, would this make it seem like I am writing off my friend’s life story? Obviously, if the answer is yes, do NOT say that thing. It’s really not as hard as it sounds. It also helps to be prepared for silences. They are okay. I’m not sure if you have ever been ignored your whole life and suddenly had someone interested in the most raw and vulnerable parts of your heart, but if so, you know that talking is difficult and words come out in drops, not a rushing stream. Long silences and a sobbing are a real possibility. So is the possibility that the person may just shut down. Be selfless and follow the golden rule. Always show compassion. This isn’t a 90s sitcom, you won’t solve someone’s problems in a half hour, however, you may find yourself in a critical position to steer someone toward needed help. Don’t miss it.

Mental illness is difficult to deal with and with so many people making a joke out of it and even using words like depressed and OCD out of context, we don’t have tough conversations about these things until tragedy happens. If someone you know is starting to show signs that they are hurting, if you see someone withdrawing from friends or A students suddenly barely making Cs, if you even suspect someone may be considering suicide, please reach out to them. It’s much better to have an awkward conversation that could reveal nothing serious was wrong, than to wake up one day and realize someone you know has hurt so badly that they believed death was the only thing that could help them. One person isn’t enough to make someone take their life, but it could be enough to save one. The hard truth is, saying something may not be enough to stop the attempt, but it is enough for someone to know they aren’t completely alone. A friendly smile or a well meaning greeting can make world of difference, so can asking a friend if they are suicidal. It won’t be an easy conversation, but it’s an important one, so let’s talk about suicide.

 

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Or if you are like me and don’t have the privacy to talk on the phone without worrying about being overheard:

http://chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx

https://www.7cups.com/

 

 

*Disclaimer: I’m not a licensed therapist or any kind of doctor. I don’t even play one one t.v.. I’m just sharing what I have learned from my suicide attempt, the events leading up to it, and the results that came after.

 

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Making Time for God in College

By September 12, 2016 Living

College feels like it never stops. There is never really much downtime during the week. You are running between classes, studying, writing papers, and doing crazy things with your friends. Oh, and somewhere in that time you are supposed to get 8 hours of sleep! Finding a spare 20 minutes, or even a spare 10 can seem like an overwhelming task at times. We all know we should pray and read our Bibles daily but, when the alarm goes off it’s very easy to sleep through those few minutes. Making time to get to know God is completely worth it but, it will take a bit of effort.

Here are some tips to help you start this habit:

1. Plan time into your schedule

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to get up with the sun to read your bible every morning. In fact, if you are not a morning person, this is the last thing you should do. Pick a time that works for you and plan it into your schedule like you would a class. You know when you learn best. If you are a morning person, great! I’m right there with you. I love getting up in the quiet of the morning and praying. If you are a night owl, mornings are probably the worst time for you! (I wish my brain functioned past 10 pm too!) Take some time at night instead. After dinner, after a work out (or even while you work out!), or right before bed are all great times. Just be careful to not wait until the last minute. You don’t want to fall asleep reading! 🙂

2. Join a prayer group/ Bible study

While time on you own is very important, so is community. Take time to meet with a group. You can get together to pray, read through a study book and discuss it, or read through a book of the Bible. Groups with people from different backgrounds are a great way to hear other perspectives and may even gain you some new friends. Carving out this time in your schedule will be difficult so, try bringing along one of you usually study buddies. There’s no need to feel guilty about missing homework if it’s only an hour a week. Once you start, you’d be surprised how easy it is to go and still get work done.

3. Start a reading plan 

One of the greatest things about technology is the limitless access to information. You can buy a book/ ebook to focus on or even find free reading plans online. A good starting point would be the Bible app which has tons of reading plans and will even remind you each day to read.

4. Ask a friend for help

Give a friend permission to ask you how your reading is really going. Text them every few days to check in and tell them what you’ve read. This forces you to remember a few days worth of information. On occasions where you’ve struggled to keep up, your friend will encourage you to keep going and stop what you are doing to read.  I would highly suggest that you make a point to talk to this person in depth at least once a week. Let them know where you are struggling and what distractions you are facing. My friends and I call each other to pray while we are at different colleges so, don’t be discouraged if your best friend isn’t someone you see everyday.

 

Any time spent in the Word is better than no time. Take ten minutes each day to implement these suggestions! You won’t regret it! If it is hard at first, try changing up when/where you have your prayer/reading time.

Click here to see the one year Bible I love for my daily devotions. It breaks reading down into easy to read segments from the Old and New Testaments as well as readings from Proverbs and Psalms.

 

Disclaimer:

Living, Learning, Dreaming is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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Depression and College

By September 8, 2016 Living

College is going to be a huge challenge. It doesn’t matter if you are full time or part time, a traditional resident, or online learner. If you expected college to be a fun time where you meet new people and do crazy things all while maintaining a 4.0, I’m sorry, but the movies have lied to you. The truth is, college is hard. You are encountering new ideas and heavy course loads all while trying to stay healthy and go on adventures with new friends. One of the oldest jokes about college outlines one of the greatest problems with college. You have the options of sleep, a social life, and good grades. Now choose the two you want because there is no time for the third. Sound familiar?

The challenges of college are heightened by depression. Depression can often leave you feeling drained. It can cause problems with sleep (either you need to much or get too little), cause irritability, isolate you, take away joy from normal activities, and overall just make it difficult to achieve any of the three options — let alone all of them! This is not an all inclusive list of symptoms and I am by no means a professional, but if you are experiencing these or other symptoms of depression, please reach out to a counselor. Unfortunately, depression is often linked to a problem with chemicals in your body, and while living a healthy lifestyle that involves getting enough sleep and exercise can help, it is not always enough.

Taking the time to put yourself first and seek out help is one of the biggest challenges. I’ve gone to great lengths to hide from my friends that I was seeing a counselor while in college. I’ve left to go study at random places and times so when I did need to run off to an appointment it wouldn’t seem so odd for me to leave. I’ve even skyped counselors to avoid the stigma of people seeing me go. One of the problems with mental illness is that people tend to see it as a character flaw and that has to stop. Another problem with depression is that a lot of the symptoms initially look like you are just a hard working student. People who skip out on fun things to do work and lose sleep to study are often glamorized as being the best students. This unhealthy lifestyle could be an indicator of depression without you even realizing you have it!

If you are a student struggling with depression, here are some things you can do to alleviate some of the problems:

  • Consider reducing your schedule – Many schools offer the opportunity to do a reduced course load while you are struggling with mental illness. There is also the option to go part time, but be aware that this will effect federal aid.
  • Switch to online classes- many schools now offer online degree programs. This is my first semester with online courses and I love it! I have the option of going one or two classes at a time and the schedule is more flexible. There are still deadlines, but they are much more manageable and when I am having bad days because of depression, it rarely effects my coursework because I don’t have to be in class at a specific time. It also helps that if I have days where I need to rest and it is difficult to get dressed, I can work on easier assignments in my pajamas.
  • Take time off- this is a scary option for many. There is often the fear that if you stop, you won’t go back. If you are actively seeking help from mental health professionals, the odds of you never finishing your degree are slim.
  • Work ahead- This option is a lot more difficult, but if you are planning on sticking to a full course load, it will be beneficial. Work to get as much done as you can on good days. Take advantage of those moments of high energy and channel it into getting coursework and chores done. Plan ahead as much as you can so when you are having a bad day, it will be less stressful knowing that it won’t put you behind.

Most importantly: be a friend to yourself. I completely understand that this is easier said than done and I will admit that I still struggle with this. If you mess up, it’s okay. Try not to be too judgmental of yourself. If a friends messed up and couldn’t get homework done or was having a bad day and had to stay in bed, you wouldn’t tell them how lazy and stupid they are. So, don’t do that to yourself! You are valuable, loved, and overall an amazing person with the potential to make a difference in the world. No one can fulfill the role that was meant for you. Please don’t give up. Getting help is a long process and sometimes it seems endless, but it’s worth it.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with mental illness, please seek out help. It takes a strong person to reach out and ask for help. If you made it through this article, you can make it through the phone call to make an appointment!

 

 

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