Hey, howdy, how’s it going! Nice to virtually connect with you all again via this little blog of mine.
The last time I wrote on here was to tell those who were frequent readers why I had been absent from my writing for so long. After I hit “publish”, I received wonderful feedback, comments, and love from people who read what I was going through. To this day, I am so grateful for that support. Sincerely, thank you all who reached out to show me some TLC. The community I have found online through my blog & YouTube has been outstanding.
But as it turns out, that blog post sharing some of my darkest experiences marked only the beginning of my struggle. I haven’t written since then for a number of reasons. For the most part, my hiatus has been due to the fact that I’m finishing up my final year of college, and I’m incredibly overwhelmed with the prospect of shedding my identity as a student for the very first time in my (remembered) life. Like, seriously though – I’m FREAKING out.
Secondly, even though I’ve been absent from the interwebs, I’ve still been writing a LOT! I’ve been taking a few different writing classes, and most of my creative energy has gone into working on my memoir and discovering the fact that I absolutely adore slam poetry! Who knew?! So I have been flexing my language muscles and putting the fingers to the keys, so to speak, I just haven’t shared it with anyone outside of my academic community.
Lastly, depression and anxiety are both still very present in my life. Some things have gotten a lot better, for which I am so thankful, and some things have shown up in new ways and posed new problems for me. I am still learning a whole lot about my mental health, my spirituality, and my community. I’ve been seeing a therapist for 6 months now, and let me tell you – unpacking all my childhood baggage has really been sucking up my energy!
So yeah – that’s a little bit about what I’ve been up to! (…Also for the sake of transparency: I watched every single season AND the revival of Gilmore Girls in one month while knitting an entire blanket…so…. lots of couch time)
I wanted to write a little update on here now that I’m on my spring break and have a little breathing room. Not that anyone has been waiting with bated breath for my next piece, but I do think it’s a little unfair to write a lengthy piece about how depressed I’ve been and then give absolutely zero follow-up.
So hey! I’m alive. I’m doing better. Life is going pretty well, and I’m doing a lot of self-care and self-discovery right now so that’s cause for a celebration.
The main update I wanted to provide in this little “part two” to my mental illness story is that I am indeed on medication right now as part of my therapy program. In my last piece, I mentioned that I started something and then got immediately off it last summer. I was terrified about starting medication at the time, and I decided to continue putting it off with the hopes I could overcome my depression without it. I feared it would change my personality or that I would become dependent or it would make my depression even worse.
As it turns out, I really do need it at this point in my life, and it has not done any of those things I feared. There are side effects, of course, but it’s been a good choice for me in the long-run and I’m very happy that I gave myself the chance to try it. I’m on 100mg Zoloft and it’s been an integral part of my healing process thus far. I’m actually still adjusting my dosage, so the process continues!
Taking medication and seeing a therapist weekly have worked in tandem with one another to help me examine my childhood trauma, my harmful habits, my patterns of thinking and behavior that further my depression and anxiety.
Now, therapy isn’t for everyone. Medication isn’t for everyone. Some people benefit more from intensive meditation, group therapy, or other forms of support. But I have found that this two-pronged approach to my therapy has been the most successful for me and those in my life who share similar experiences.
What I’m really longing to say is that I didn’t begin healing until I began letting go of my shame surrounding medication, therapy, and asking for help. I didn’t begin taking steps forward until I let go of the life I thought I was supposed to have, and gave into the one that was unfolding within me. I didn’t start to overcome some of my mental illness until I started asking myself:
“Now what’s your part in this?
How are you playing a role in your pain?
How are you playing a role in the pain of other people?”
Asking myself these questions has been hard; finding and accepting the answers has been even harder. It has resulted in me ending a relationship, stepping back from certain friendships, and learning a whole lot about my limits and boundaries. It’s also caused me to get real fucking honest with myself about the harm that I’ve caused, the mistakes that I’ve made, and the shitty habits I’ve built to “protect” myself.
It’s actually really really sucked, but this sucky feeling has also partnered with a feeling of authenticity, too. I know that I’m doing the right thing. I know that I’m learning and growing in directions that are authentic for me. It’s not easy to be asking myself to stretch beyond the limits I’ve set for myself, but it’s also the most at peace I’ve been with myself and my decisions in a long time.
If you are struggling with your mental health right now, I hope this blog post achieves one thing (at the very least): I hope it reminds you that you are not alone in this. If you can let that sink in, even for a moment, I believe it can be a turning point in which you begin asking for and seeking the help that you need. The only reason I am doing a lot better is because of the community beside and within me. The only reason I am doing a lot better is because I let go of the fear of asking for help from that community. If you need it, I hope you will ask, too.
I wonder what it’s like to be you. I wonder where your mind wanders when you drift off to sleep, and I wonder who you sleep next to. Who would you call in the case of an emergency? Or after a bad day? Or just to say hello? There was a time when it would have been me.
I think often about that night on the pier. I wouldn’t let you take a photo of my face. You begged and begged, but I refused. “Only silhouettes,” I said. I didn’t want my insecurities peering back at you through an unforgiving photo. I didn’t want to look through images with you and feel embarrassed, insecure, nervous. I was unsure about you, a little shy. It was so unlike me to be so quiet and reserved, but somehow you brought that out in me that night on the pier. “Only silhouettes,” I repeated. And I turned my back on you and looked out at the water. Click.
I wonder where you are sometimes, what you’re up to. I remember the days when I always knew. You were in the library, or at work, or in your apartment, or on your way to mine. When we weren’t side by side, I still knew how you were spending your time. Now I know next to nothing about you, or how you spend your days, or who you spend them next to. Remember when it used to be me?
Memories. They’re fickle things, you know? As each day passes they become dimmer and grayer and more difficult to recall. When I’m in those moments with someone I love, they’re full of color and life. But once they’re gone, now that you’re gone, they’re just words and faces and shapes blended together. Shapeless and lackluster, slowing slipping away.
I think often about that night in the yard out back. The music was blaring, I was crying, you were yelling. “Choose,” you said. “It’s either all of me or nothing at all.” I knew the ultimatum would come. But I didn’t quite believe it when it arrived right in front of me. Looking back, I think about how I should’ve chosen you. But for some reason, after all that time, I just couldn’t.
Time. It’s a funny thing, you know? Always moving forward, never looking back. It’s selfish, indeed, but also the most consistent and sure thing I’ve ever known. Time always puts one foot in front of the other. Time doesn’t stop and look back and remember.
I often think about that night in the kitchen. I often think about the night eating barbeque chicken wings. I often think about the paint streamed across your face. I often think about our nights on your couch. I often thing about the hike that started it all.
You brought your camera with you that time, too. You always brought your camera. “Only silhouettes,” I repeated. And I turned my back on you and looked out at Mt. Rainer. Click.
The view was beautiful. Absolutely breath-taking. But somehow, I just couldn’t keep myself from looking back at you.
*Note: this is a very rough draft of a lyric essay I wrote for my creative non-fiction class.
I’ve been carrying around a heavy heart today. A large lump has been stuck in my throat as I carry myself from one obligation, one class, one meeting to the next.
This morning I woke up to the news of Alan Rickman, beloved stage and movie actor, passing away from cancer at age 69. I know of Rickman most intimately from the Harry Potter movies. Surprise, surprise. He played the character Professor Severus Snape, and he ultimately shaped and performed one of the most unlikely heroes of modern book to movie adaptation. Not only would the movie franchise not be the same without Rickman’s portrayal, but the hearts and minds of so many young children who grew up reading and watching the movies would be subpar if he hadn’t inhabited the mind and body of Professor Snape. He brought to life one of the most complex, beautiful, and tragic characters in children literature. He will not be forgotten, and not only because his vocation was that of timeless art, but because of the kindness and compassion he gave to the many he encountered.
This blog post isn’t meant to be a tribute to Alan Rickman specifically, although I truly believe he deserves that and so much more. In reality, this post is what his passing has brought to light for me today: the uncertainty of life, as well as the certainty of an unavoidable death. Whether I meet death with cancer, as Alan Rickman did, or with tragic accident, or natural causes. Death for us all is the one truth we hold. Mortality is one thing we hold for certain. There are existential moments we all experience throughout life where we graze death, and come to the realization of our finiteness. But to live with that constant and consistent reminder would be an undoubtable cause for insanity. It’s brief moments that root us once again in our undeniable finitude.
I don’t know when my life will meet its end. To say that I have no fear surrounding that fact would be a lie. But quite honestly, I fear the loss of my loved ones far more than the loss of my own identity and personhood. Because that is a reality I would, and will, have to live through. What Professor Snape’s narrative brings to light is the courage and dignity we all can carry throughout this life, until we meet our death. What Alan Rickman’s passing reminds me is the choice we have to say yes to love and life in spite of our unavoidable demise.
I got a Harry Potter tattoo a few months ago, and people have asked me “Don’t you think you’ll regret having that when you’re 80?” My answer is consistently “No”, but I realize that my answer is actually much deeper than that. The world of Harry Potter gave me hope as a bullied child growing up, it gave me a world of magic when the realities of the harsh world started to set in on me, and it showed me the light of grace and forgiveness in spite of a world that can seem so dark.
When my grandchildren one day ask me about the 9 3/4 etched into my right forearm, they may ask the meaning and significance. They may ask “After all this time?”
And I will say, time and time again, “Always.”
R.I.P. Alan Rickman. February 21, 1946 – January 14, 2016.
I should be working on homework right now. I should be responding to emails. I should be editing, filming, thinking about new ideas and new content. But instead I’m sitting on my bed listening to the duet of both my new Sinatra record and the sound of Oprah and Gayle munching on hay.
Ever since school has started up, I’ve been slacking on my blog. I knew it would happen this way; it always does. My days get filled with work and school, and instead of sitting down between classes to write my next post, I’m running from one meeting to the next trying desperately not to be late.
It’s like this every year. I say that I’m not going to get as busy as I usually do. I say I’m going to set clear and strict boundaries for myself. But I’m in the perpetual habit of not knowing how to say “no”. And I think I’ve developed a serious case of FOMO.
The term “FOMO” was introduced to me this past summer. I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of it before; it practically defines my college existence. FOMO = Fear of missing out. And I’ve got it bad.
It wasn’t always this way. Although I’ve always been a relatively involved student, I also found myself saying “no” a lot back in high school. If I didn’t want to do something, I wouldn’t do it. And more significantly, I didn’t worry about the consequences.
My mother raised me to be an independent woman, and I definitely exuded an attitude of “always doing my own thing” in high school. But as I came upon graduation during my senior year and as I entered into college, I started to realize how much I had missed out on. I started to realize that there were so many experiences, people, and places I would never have the chance to repeat.
So half-way through my 1st year of college, I decided I would not miss out on the next four years of my life. I wouldn’t spend most of my days hanging out in my dorm room or the library. I would research and join clubs I was interested in. I would apply for jobs on campus and internships in the area. I would make the most of my college experience, and I wouldn’t say no to new experiences, new people, and new opportunities.
Well… I stuck to my word. And sophomore year just about killed me.
I was overcommitted, incredibly stressed, and unable to balance it all. There were at least a dozen times throughout the school year when I broke down and threatened to drop one or all of my commitments just so I could sleep a full 8 hours. Those breakdowns never actually resulted in me cutting down on anything. I would just cry out my frustrations and start all over the next day. At the end of sophomore year, I said no more. I will not repeat this again.
Which brings us here. It’s 11:04 pm. I have a class in the morning and I haven’t finished the book for it. I have four jobs on campus, 2 internships, and a blog to run. I also have friends and family that I adore very much that deserve my time and attention. Basically, it’s sophomore year all over again.
Except… It isn’t. Somehow this year isn’t going so bad at all. Even though my days are just as long as before, I have a new energy in me that I didn’t have before. I’m enjoying my involvements and commitments, and whenever I’m feeling incredibly stressed, I remind myself that this is what I chose. This is the life that I cultivate. My theory is that despite nothing slowing down, I’ve learned how to run alongside life a little better. I know how to prioritize and manage a busy schedule now.
I like being busy. I like running from thing to thing. I like meeting new people everyday. I like having each day look different than the next. I don’t know if this is exactly healthy, and a close friend of mine recently tried to be my psychologist and asked “Ali, have you asked yourself why you like to be so busy?”
Yes. Yes, I have. And it’s a multifaceted answer. In some ways, I’ve always been this way. I’m a product of the “go go go” consumer/producer American mentality. In other ways, this is the best way I know how to heal. I’m more productive when I’m slammed. I’m more creative when I’m bouncing from thing to thing. These are the times when I know best how to take any pain from my past and turn it into art.
Call me a busy body. Call me overcommitted. Call me the physical embodiment of FOMO. I may be all those things, but I am much, much more.
Despite my never-ending commitments, I also find myself to be a thoughtful person. I’m thinking a lot more than I’m doing, and I am not afraid to slow down. Unlike my 18-year-old self, I know how to say no. It just turns out I like saying “YES” to life a whole lot more.
For those of you that follow my blog consistently, I apologize for my lack of content. That is indeed a negative affect of my busy schedule. But don’t you worry – I’m always thinking of new ideas, new posts, new concepts I want to explore.. And all these new experiences are giving me endless inspiration and countless stories that I can’t wait to create and share with you all.
Now I’ve just got to find the time…
Do you experience FOMO? Tweet me some of your stories!