Monthly Archives: September 2016

Falling Short

You’re your own worst critic.

Stop being so hard on yourself.

You’re doing the best you can.

“Most important thing in life is learning how to fall.”

Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses

You can’t please everyone, that is a lesson of it’s own. But what about yourself? What happens when you can’t reach your own goals? Your own standards?

I’ve been there. I am there. In more ways than one.

One area is school. I’ve always identified as the smart kid, the nerd. School was the one area of life I could receive praise for a really long time. Regardless, I had to be good at school to afford college. Academics was an escape. I want to make a career out of it, I want to be a professor. At the moment, however, I’m falling short.I’m not failing. However, I’m not the star, straight A student I was. I’m burnt out and overwhelmed. This isn’t the first time, but this is the more noticeable time.

It’s as if all my energy is currently going to just existing. In terms of Spoon Theory- a person only has so many spoons, each symbolizing energy. Tasks require varying amounts of spoons, and once that spoon is used it doesn’t reappear until the person has recharged. It’s as if I used to start a day with dozens of spoons, and currently I’m trying to live off 5. There simply isn’t enough energy to thrive.

“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”

Voltaire

I have trouble accepting that it’s okay. That everyone has periods of falling short and that I am in no way worth less or less capable in the future because of where I am now. I feel like I’m letting myself down. Like I’m not reaching my potential, despite having some hefty obstacles currently in the way. I start to fear I won’t reach my dream of a career in academics because I start to doubt my own intelligence and proficiency. And if this one area that I had consistently shined in is taken away- who am I?

If there’s one thing I learned this summer, it’s that I can’t let these thoughts get me down.

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

Tom Hiddleston

A high achieving colleague let me in on a secret one afternoon tea as I opened up about these worries. About how I wasn’t feeling good enough to succeed. He simply said: no one has it figured out. Everyone feels as uncertain as I do and everyone is faking it until they make it. It’s normal to experience doubt, and no one is perfect, so It’s normal to have off times. So long as I keep going, and keep projecting confidence, I can move onwards and upwards despite falling short occasionally.

As long as you have the will, you can succeed. You just need to keep going, keep trying, all the way through the periods of doubt, and you can learn along they way how to make it.

 

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Thinking of Others

A personal and extremely sappy post.

I love interviews. I love talking. I’ve done so many at this stage that I have stock answers for generic questions. Whenever asked what my biggest weakness is I always tell the truth. My biggest weakness is also my biggest strength: that I care too much. It both fuels my efforts and fuels my emotional downfall. I take things far too personally.

Somewhere along the way caring about everything became too much- too much for my heart which has always felt things a little too deeply. I try now to care only about the things I can’t help caring about. I care about making a difference. I care about nature. I care about people. I care about performing. I care about film. I care about mental health. I care about injustice. I care about spreading love.

“Never be so busy as not to think of others.”

Mother Teresa, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living

Unfortunately, I can’t shake that I care deeply what other people think of me. I’m certainly not too sensitive for banter and jokes, but  I can’t cope with bad blood. I can’t deal with someone not liking who I am as a person. For an unfiltered and brash individual, who is nowhere near perfect, winning over the universe is not easy. My preschool teacher told my mom that I was “unique in every sense of the word” and I’m not convinced it was a compliment. I try to win people over with my open-minded nature. I’d like to think I’m witty too, though my puns are often questionable at best. My memes are pretty dank though. I digress. I live my life under the principle that people should be able to do whatever they want so long as they are not hurting someone else. If they’re not hurting anyone it’s not my place to pass any judgement. I don’t know their story.

However, the world doesn’t work in a way that being nice guarantees positive feedback. Especially when you’re as anxious as I am, because you’re bound to seem annoying at some stage. But in all honesty, aren’t we all annoying sometimes? Nonetheless I try. I don’t change who I am, but I try too hard. My fear of inter-personal conflict is so great that I will take the blame in situations that are not my fault. I only vent, avoiding gossip if I can, because I’d feel awful it getting back to someone. Inevitably I’m sure I’ve hurt someone along the way, but never intentionally. Over the years I’ve worked at getting better at standing up for myself when wronged, but am still not great at it.  Causes I can make a commotion about, but not little old me. Little old me wants to keep the peace. The world would call me a pussy when it comes to self defense.

“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate […]”

Anthon St. Maarten

Inevitably, it’s hard for me to swallow when someone doesn’t like me. Especially when I myself don’t really generate the feeling of dislike towards others. I always try to see where others are coming from in their actions. Even if they break the cardinal rule and hurt someone, and even if their actions are not justifiable no matter where they are coming from (which I’ve experienced many times in my short life), that does not make me hate them. I’m not weak, it’s not easy to forgive, but in hating I stoop and am only hurting myself. I fundamentally feel everyone deserves happiness and it is not my place to stand in their way. If they’ve done wrong it will come back to them without me. I will continue to like everyone.

“You are what you love, not what loves you. ”

Charlie Kaufman

Not being liked triggers other thoughts, it emanates feelings of not being understood. Surely if my peers who don’t like me knew what I’ve overcome, why I am the way I am, what is happening in my life, they’d have more empathy for annoying quirks. I haven’t even broken the cardinal rule. Hell, I wasn’t even supposed to make it this far. Making snap judgement about my character takes away how hard I worked to get where I am.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story

I know I should just say fuck it. It’s impossible to please everyone. Sure I’m the only person I have to live with at the end of the day. It’s silly, immature, and pathetic that I want to be liked by everyone. I know I shouldn’t care. I know. Caring too much is just who I am, and as I said I don’t change who I am. But if my call home taught me anything, it’s that I can’t let what I don’t have take away from what I do; which had unknowingly happened. I’d become so concerned with pleasing the world that I wasn’t appreciating the love and understanding coming from numerous friends, family, and a great boyfriend. I wasn’t letting it be enough. I wasn’t letting my own love for myself and the good qualities I have be enough.

So, though I can’t change caring whether the world likes me, I can shift the focus to the positive people in my life. Let them serve as a blockade against my wishes that will only lead to disappointment. I can’t change that I care about everyone but I can change the depth of field in my life, the true friends in focus. Not letting negativity get to me.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Bernard M. Baruch

It Does Not Define Me (My Mental Health Story)

My mental health story, a change in structure.

So this is highly personal, and something that is hard to openly share, however I am a big believer that the more people talk about mental health the more it is normalized and the more change can be made for the better.

I was an anxious child. That much was clear. Maybe it was the prednisone I was on for much of my early years, to help me breath through my asthma, that triggered it. I’ll never know.

I had rituals. I had to be the last to say goodbye to visitors or else I acted as if the world was ending. I had to stomp my feet when I got in the car. I had to look at my self a certain way in the mirror. I worried. I worried all the time and about everything. I had so much going on in my head that in kindergarten and first grade I was in a slower reading group.

By age 6 I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was put on medication. I started therapy. I jumped from the bottom reading group to the top. However, this was just the start of a long journey.

Bipolar Disorder ran in my family. The anti-anxiety medication I was put on at such a young age, an SSRI, triggered the Bipolar gene in me that might have otherwise remained dormant. At 6 I had a manic episode. I thought with every fiber of my being that everyone, including my family, was trying to kill me.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar by age 7. I was put on Lithium and never had a manic episode again. At first, looking at the pamphlet made for early onset Bipolar in kids, I was happy. Sure anxiety was always my main issue, but seeing a book made for symptoms I experienced was amazing to me. I wasn’t alone. I thought I would be understood. Little did I know what was coming.

I had reflective days in the early years, upset I had to take medication, feeling like an outcast. Society surely didn’t help. In second grade a fellow student’s parent found out about my conditions. Worried her son would be negatively influenced, she requested her son be kept away from me. The school obliged, even recess aids were informed to keep us separate. I was full of hurt and pain at 8. I knew all of what was happening, and the embarrassment and shame was indescribable.

All of puberty was tough, adjusting medications regularly to match my ever changing hormones. The side effects of long term medication being fully realized. My home life at the time was less then ideal and a struggle in it’s own right, not aiding my mental state. I would break down in school. Panic. Fear.

Some teachers were a help, letting me be with sympathetic words, allowing me to calm. Some only made it worse. There were rooms the size of a telephone booths with windows in the counselor’s hallway. They were for in school suspension, kids that did bad things. Kids had a habit of looking in the rooms to see who was in trouble on their way to the counselors. When I was having panic attacks, break downs, because the world around me was too much, I would get thrown in these rooms until I stopped crying. I remember my panic only intensifying.

I’m trapped, scared, I wish I had a phone to call someone to rescue me. Shame. I wasn’t in trouble. Everyone walking by will think I’m in trouble. I’m a good kid I swear.Adults and kids are laughing at me. Get me out please I’m hurting. I want to die. Please. I can’t breathe.

I stabilized in middle school, but for the rest of my time I had to fight for my place in many higher level classes because I got extended time on exams due to my anxiety. I developed secondary conditions due to my medication. I never stopped taking it, I was fortunate to not know any different, and see the dangers of trying without a doctors supervision.

In college, my roommate made fun of me for being on medication, calling me crazy, saying I have a drawer full of pills. The school made it difficult to get a single room.

I lost friends and opportunities during a rough patch in life when I was having multiple panic attacks a day, struggling to function. I was going to therapy and following the rules, but sometimes that’s not enough. They didn’t understand. My anxious behavior, which I actively challenged with every fiber of my being, and did not ask for, was too bizarre for some.

Depending on external life factors, and my condition in general, my anxiety ebbs in and out. Some periods are grand, some are not. Regardless I give it my all. Every day I try. There are days where getting out of bed seems like too much to bare. Almost every day is exhausting. Existing takes everything I have.There were times I wanted out. There were close calls. But I know now the good times are worth the bad, and I will fight for the good times.  I have to pay for medication, which isn’t cheap. I’ve known my whole life I will have that added cost, on top of the emotional cost. I hope one day I can go off some of them with a doctor’s supervision. I deal.

Above all in my journey I learned you have to help yourself. If you don’t, no amount of external help will get you anywhere. You have try. And sometimes that’s not enough. That’s okay. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to need help. Seeking help isn’t weak. It shouldn’t be stigmatized. It should be like going to a physical doctor. Your brain is an organ it, needs check ups too, which could even save a life.

For a number of reasons, including my mental health, I wasn’t expected to achieve this much. To go beyond community college. I graduated in the top 10% of my class. I got a full ride to college. I earned a spot at the Clinton Global Initiative University. I’ve appeared in commercials. Ran clubs. Moved to another country. I succeeded in spite of my mental health. I am more empathetic because of my mental health. Anyone can do the same. Most have. That’s just not the image portrayed in the  media.

However the more we speak up, the more we normalize the discussion around mental health, the more the struggle becomes apparent, the better of the world is. I deal with mental health issues. So do 1 in 4 in the US. 1 in 4 is not homeless, a psychotic killer, an outcast. 1 in 4 should not be treated as if they are. Those who treat people less because of their mental health should be scolded, not those trying their hardest to overcome. The more we personalize this issue, come forward and put faces to it, the more stigma goes away. The more the diagnosis becomes less of a defining feature for a person. It’s not easy, the fear of judgement, the fear of being viewed as having a character flaw instead of a medical condition, is very real. But it’s necessary.

I am Kelley, and I have OCD and mild Bipolar.  I am not my illness. It has shaped me, but it in no way defines me.