Self and Harm

Today, I’m going to talk about something that isn’t easy but important to talk about. I’m going to talk about self harm. It is a very misunderstood topic, and I can only truly speak as to my own experience. However, I think that it is important to talk about so that others can understand. I think part of the reason why it is so misunderstood is because people don’t talk about it. I can’t blame them, it is kind of a weird concept. Why would someday intentionally hurt themselves? It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve suffered from this, and I know it.

I think that the first thing people need to understand is that people who do this are mentally ill. They aren’t thinking logically or with their right mind. I know I’m not as terrible as a person as my depression makes me think or that the worst outcome that my anxiety put in my head won’t happen, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times I don’t believe it. At the moment you’re going to cut, you think that is your only option. Whenever I have, it was because I couldn’t feel anything or I felt so much that it is overbearing. I’m a writer, but I don’t think that the feeling can be adequately explained. It is a feeling of utter despair; as if you are drowning in a black hole that keeps closing in. The despair emerges straight from your heart and just encompasses you. And in that moment, you’d do anything to feel something or to break the bubble of conflicting emotions. There’s no winning.

I don’t want to cut. I still struggle with it. There’s times I just have to sit there, basically grit my teeth and close my eyes, and wait it out until the urge passes. I use a fidget cube, I have a stress ball, and I use basic breathing exercises but sometimes I have to just try and wait it out. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Recently, I read an article about it where the author compared to addiction and said that she struggles with it still 15 years later. That’s an awful long time. I hope that maybe there is a day where I don’t struggle with it.

I hate having to look at my scars. I don’t know why I do it where I do. I’m not exactly thinking about the best place to hide it when I do it. I can barely think straight, I’m not thinking about the consequences of those actions. And I have to live with them. I see them everyday. I would like to get one in particular covered with a tattoo at some point. I hope that will deter me from cutting as well.

The one thing that is really important to understand about mental illness in general is that it’s not a problem that can just be solved thinking a certain way. When someone says, “you just have to do it,” that isn’t always possible. That’s why there are things like cognitive behavior therapy so we can learn how to do it. Mental illness isn’t a light switch. If it were, I would’ve found a way to glue mine on “off.” Similarly, people may not b able to explain why they cut. It took me a long time to realize that it was a set of extremes – absence of emotion versus an overabundance of it – that led me to. The why makes me uncomfortable. It being assumed that I cut “for attention” is similar to being stabbed. Not in the back, but right where you can see it. It has nothing to do with anyone else. Does it mean they don’t possibly need your help? No, but please understand that the reason isn’t to do it to get attention. Everyone deals with their demons differently; some can do it in healthy ways like working out or playing an instrument. Others turn to drugs, alcohol, or gambling for theirs. And others  still end up at self-harm. I only ask that you do not judge. The person doesn’t want to do it. Most likely, they hate at least part of themselves for it. My interpretation of it being “for attention” is that it undermines the person’s struggle. There are different ways to ask; you can ask if they need to talk or if there is anything on their mind. You can offer them a hug. Being there for someone can make all the difference in something like this. Please don’t judge. Please keep an open mind and open heart. You can positively impact someone because of it.

 

Peace and Love.

VicMik

25 Things About Me

It’s been a few days I was pretty busy with a structure burn session class, and I had a week off from work where I’ve just been kind of recharging.

Happy Birthday to….me! Tomorrow, actually. For my 25th birthday, I’m doing 25 things about me.

  1. I have three brothers and am the second oldest. My brothers are 29, 22, and 11.
  2. I don’t have my driver’s license. While this sucks, it’s a product of my anxiety. I can go driving with anyone…until I have to take the test. Then I have an anxiety attack. I’m working on it.
  3. My favorite TV shows are NCIS, NCIS: New Orleans, the Walking Dead, and House of Cards. I also enjoy Law and Order: SVU and M*A*S*H.
  4. I am obsessed with Star Wars. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love Star Wars and can’t wait until Episode VIII.
  5. I once wrote a letter to George Lucas in middle school and got a response from someone on his staff. They sent me two patches, an Indiana Jones one and a Skywalker Ranch one.
  6. When I was about 10, my hair started to curl and I thought if I cut my curls that my curls would go away. That didn’t work, but that started my love for short hair!
  7. I read the last three Harry Potter books in under 12 hours the first time I read them.
  8. I’m a superhero fan, and my favorites are Batman, Deadpool, Black Widow, and the Ninja Turtles. I’m not sure if the Ninja Turtles exactly count, but they do now. Go Ninja Go Ninja Go!
  9. I’ve spent the past couple years really struggling with my fitness, and I feel like now I’m on the right track. Joining the Y by my work was one of the best things I’ve done. I feel like I’m getting into a routine and finally making progress.
  10. I have a love-hate with running, but a lot of the hate comes from having plantar fasciitis. I’m hoping that I have gotten the right pair of running shoes and correct braces to rectify that. I love how I feel after a run. I also really enjoy doing the fun runs.
  11. Yoga works out my mind just as much as my body, and I have loved seeing how much I have progressed with it.
  12. I can’t not do anything. I’m on vacation this week, and I am having such a hard time doing nothing. I always want to be going. It has definitely been an adjustment post-graduate school.
  13. I want a tiny lightsaber tattoo on my leg, specifically Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber.
  14. I love sports. A lot. Senior year of college, one of my roommates thought I was crazy for how much I would yell at the TV when I was watching a game.
  15. I enjoy writing. Writing poetry is probably my favorite, and I don’t do it nearly often enough. I like to take my poetry ideas from observations, whether it be something I see on the street or inspiration from a show.
  16. I was published at 22 in Fire Engineering on consolidating volunteer fire departments. Other than my Master’s degree, this is probably my proudest accomplishment to date.
  17. Someday, I’d like to publish a novel or get a screenplay on the stage or big screen. I have no screenplay writing experience, but that isn’t exactly stopping me. I’ll be headed to the Oscars, baby. Or write the next great American novel. Whichever.
  18. My biggest fault is that I always want everyone to get along.
  19. I make wreaths as a hobby.
  20. In addition to being a volunteer firefighter for almost 11 years, I’ve been an EMT since I was 16.
  21. I used to be a student athletic trainer and worked with my HS football team. I really enjoyed working with them.
  22. In the 3rd grade, I got really sick and ended up in the hospital. But the kicker here is before I ended up in the hospital, I hid the television remote and my family couldn’t find it for about six months
  23. I presented my Honors undergraduate thesis at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
  24. Every school I have gone to has had at least the colors blue and white. The only addition was red.
  25. I was an extra in “The Dark Knight Rises” with my older brother during the Heinz Field scene. You can see my lime green sign for about half a second.

Travel Bucket List

So, my college roommate and I are planning on going on a road trip to the Pacific Northwest next summer. Seeing as the furthest west I’ve ever been is Ohio, I am super excited for this and can’t wait to have this trip with one of my best friends. We are going to definitely go to many hiking spots, and I love to hike and take photos. I can’t even imagine how beautiful the scenery is going to be. Planning this has made me think of where I want to go throughout the United States and the world, so I’m doing a Top Ten Travel Bucket List!

  1. 10. Hawaii: It is simply paradise. There is no way that the pictures do the beauty of these islands justice. It just seems to be such a relaxing atmosphere. I’m not sure what I would enjoy more, exploring the islands and seeing volcanoes, or relaxing on the beach.
  1. Italy: More beautiful sites, rich history, wonderful food and wine, What else could anyone ever want? I would love to travel through Italy and would especially love to visit the historic sites in Rome or the ruins of Pompeii. Milan is rich with culture, especially concerning the arts and fashion but it is also is full of its own history. It is a balance of modern and past day sites. Sicily and Naples are other places I would like to visit, and I am sure if I ever had the opportunity, I would find more places to visit. Italy is full of culture, and I could not get enough of it!
  1. Amsterdam: Amsterdam seems like a really laid back place. It would be cool to go there for a relaxing, good time. They have festivals throughout the summer. There are beaches to lounge around at.They have a day this year where they are playing soccer in the streets! Amsterdam also has many different canals all over the place which would be cool. In the spring, tulip gardens are blooming. I love flowers, so that would be really pretty to see.
  1. Los Angeles, California: This would just be a fun trip. I would love to just be a tourist. I would want to explore Hollywood and Rodeo Drive. I wonder how close you can get to the Hollywood sign? I would definitely go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and try to find the stars of some of my favorite celebrities. Venice Beach is another place I’d want to go. Los Angeles is somewhere that I would just want to explore.  I would just want to walk through the city all day and see where I end up. I feel like it is a city that always has something to keep my interest! Plus, I have a sorority sister who lives out there, so it would be a great chance to visit with her!
  1. Las Vegas: This is another fun trip. I would love to go see the shows. This is my chance to win it big. It’s so easy to get lost in time in a casino, but if I was winning, I feel like it would be very relaxing! Here’s to hoping I have some luck on my side if I ever get to go there.   
  1.  Alaska: A few years ago, I had a friend who visited there for a few weeks. Her photos were absolutely amazing. Alaska would be a magnificent place just to explore. It would be amazing to see the Northern Lights. I would also want to go hiking. I can’t even imagine how breathtaking the mountains are. It seems like an entire new world. Even in today’s world of news everywhere and everything, you don’t hear much about life in Alaska. I would like to see what the world is like there.
  1. New York City: There is so much to do in New York City! I would love to see a Broadway show and go to the museums. To see the Statue of Liberty and explore Times Square! It would be an exciting time. I feel like it would be very different from anywhere I have been before with all of the hustle and bustle. I would love to visit a FDNY firehouse! That would be really cool. Another reason would be to pay my respects at the 9/11 site and memorial. I have heard the somber experience of others, and it is something I would like to experience myself.
  1.  Boston, Massachusetts: I don’t understand why, but I have always wanted to visit Boston. In some ways, this is odd to me because I don’t like any of their sport teams. But there is significant American history in Boston that would be fascinating to see and experience first hand. It is a very picturesque city. I would love to see the Freedom Trail, Boston Common, and the Charlestown Navy Yard. I would love to see where the Boston Tea Party took place. Boston also has many great museums that I would love to visit.
  1. United Kingdom: As a history buff, the U.K. would be great to visit. I’d love to go to England, Ireland, and Scotland. In England, I would love to see the palaces, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey. I would want to visit sites all the way back to the Tudor period. The scenery in Scotland would be something to take in, as would the many old castles. I would like to go to Edinburgh and Glasgow. In Ireland, obviously I would want to go to Dublin, and I would want to learn to pour a proper pint of Guinness! The castles of Ireland would also be a sight to see. There is just something about the scenery of the United Kingdom

          1. Paris, France: Five years of taking French classes, I would love to visit all of France          from Nice to the Palace of Versailles. But my number one place to visit would have to be Paris. I can’t even imagine seeing the Eiffel Tower up close. I would love to visit the Louvre. This is a city rich with culture, and I would take it all in. There is significant beauty throughout the city and its neighborhoods. I would love to just explore and see everything about it. I want to experience everything from the food to fashion. I can’t even put into words how much I want to visit Paris and be part of that culture for just a few days. To me, it would be the coolest thing to sit in a little French bakery. Someday I’ll get there!

Motivational Failure

Like I’ve said previously, I’ve been having some mental health issues recently. This, and along with a recent bout of bronchitis, has really impacted my fitness levels. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I’m currently reaching the goals I had set for myself, but I want to talk about how this impacted me and how I’m trying to get trucking through.

I’ve had a hard time accepting that I wasn’t reaching the goals I set for myself. It wasn’t for a lack of trying or pushing myself – I was going to the gym five days a week and making sure to mix it up. I suppose in some ways I underestimated how slow the process is. But I also underestimated the role my anxiety and depression would play. First, I’m not gonna lie, as I continued to get frustrated, that would bring my mood down more. However, what really started concerning me was that I started to get obsessive over my workouts, over what I was doing, how many reps I could do, and when I could up my weights next. My thoughts would starting racing and criss-crossing until I couldn’t even decide what workouts to do or focus during my workouts. This definitely didn’t help at all. Eventually, I realized that I had to step back and reevaluate what I was aiming for. Ultimately, I realized that the worst thing could happen was that my goals might take a little bit longer – and I’ve waited this long already. It was a sigh of relief once I accepted that it was okay to not reach my goals on the timetable that I had set for myself. I wasn’t giving up on my goals, I just had to readjust them. It was a standard that I had set for myself, I was the only one I had to hold myself accountable to and I definitely didn’t need to beat myself up over it. I was trying, I was making some progress (if not as much progress as I wanted), I was still going – and that is what mattered.

But my motivation had faltered.

This was before I acknowledged that it was OK to be where I was and not have made further progress. I was frustrated, my mood was down, my anxiety was up. I wanted to give up. I hadn’t done what I set out to do. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to reach my goals. I felt like I kept having setback after setback. First, my shoulder injury, then my Master’s program was keeping me way too busy, and now the bronchitis. I had made some of my strength goals, but my primary goal was concerning cardio. With bronchitis, I had to take it easy or I’d get out of breath or start coughing. So, it seemed like I was never going to overcome these setbacks. I felt like I was working hard for no reason and that I wasn’t seeing any of the benefits. What was the point? I was making myself miserable between obsessing over the workouts and feeling frustrated with not making progress. It wasn’t good for anything. Between that and the obsessing, I couldn’t get into my workouts. Even though my mood and anxiety are still having issues, my lack of motivation wasn’t helping anything.

I wish I could say that I had an aha type of moment when I realized this was all okay, but it really took some self-reflection and hard thinking to get there. Sometimes we forget the need to exercise our brains, too. I think the one thing that really helped  was going to a yoga class. It wasn’t overwhelming or difficult, it was fairly laid back. But in the class, I did notice how I’ve come along in yoga and was okay with where I struggled. And that helped me realize that it was okay that my progress was going slowly, even if it seemed too slow to me. That maybe I shouldn’t measure my goals in time but focus on keeping to a schedule instead and that progressing within that would be my goal.

I wish I could say that my motivation is back up and that I have that drive again, but I don’t. I don’t know if it has anything to do with my depression sneaking back up on me or my anxiety sky-rocketing, but my motivation is MIA at the moment. I’m still going to the gym, but lately it has felt more of a chore. But I know that not working out isn’t going to solve anything and probably will make it worse. It is hard not be negative, and I’m trying to focus on those positives and to stay focused on my goals. The one thing that I think is important right now is to not push myself too far – I think that was part of my problem before. I was pushing myself too far too quickly. I definitely think that yoga will help get me back on track, plus I’m still getting a workout there! So I’m going to keep up with that. I can’t read enough motivational quotes right now. There is definitely a learning curve here.  The most important thing for me to remember is that I’ve gotten this far – what’s a little bit longer? How does everyone else keep their motivation up?

Living with Anxiety

Lately, I haven’t been feeling very well. It has impacted different aspects of my life. I have unfortunately had to acknowledge that I am, yet again, in the throes of a major depressive episode. My mood, energy, and motivation have all suffered from it. As I’ve mentioned before, it sucks. Depression is an all-encompassing disease. However, today I want to talk about something else with my mental illness. That’s living with anxiety. Anxiety can be more of a silent pain. Depression impacts different aspects of life and can leave more of a trail. Anxiety is a silent battle raging in my head against myself.

What’s it like living with anxiety? Some people think it is just someone who is nervous all the time, always biting on their fingernails. For some people, it may be. However, like every other chronic illness, there isn’t a one size fits all type. So, what is it like living with anxiety?

A lot of really stupid worries.

I worry over everything. And I don’t mean a concern in the back of my head. I mean it’s thoughts-to-the-forefront, all-consuming, obsession. It’ll be all I think about, and even when I’m not, it’s still lurking in the back of my head. My anxieties truly become obsessions. I mean, I can’t even choose an outfit sometimes. This might be where people scoff and think, well everyone has moments when they feel like they have nothing to wear! Except that’s not the issue. I analyze every aspect of my outfit. It truly becomes a mini-obsession, wondering how every aspect of it will be viewed and looking at views that really don’t matter. How I’ll look, how others will view it, when I wore it last, how it fits with the day, the temperature versus the temperature in the building versus leaving the gym versus if the weathermen are completely wrong and any other completely unnecessary scenario. It gets to a point where at least I can recognize that this is my anxiety leading me astray and that (a) no one cares about my outfit, (b) whatever I pick will be fine, and ( c ) that I need to take a step back and rethink the amount of effort I’m putting into it. It sounds crazy but once my thoughts start going, it’s hard to get the cart to stop. I will leave and wonder if I turned the light off, even though I know I did, and worry over and over again. I will create many ideas of of potential problems that have a miniscule likelihood of happening, ever.  That’s one stupid example. My brain goes on all wheels just thinking about this scenario. What is living with anxiety?

 

It’s chest pain that won’t go away even when you *think* you’re relaxed.

It’s a constant feeling of a “drop” in your stomach, like you got caught doing something wrong.

It is being afraid to send a text message or email because you are sure that you are a bother.

It’s not speaking up because you feel you’ll sound dumb or no one wants to hear your opinion, anyways.

It’s callouses on my hands and fingers from fidgeting the skin so much.

It’s a constant fear of judgement, even when you – the real you, the part of you that isn’t riddled with anxiety – don’t actually care what others think. It is a contradictory of self.

It’s not saying what’s wrong because you can’t get the words out.

It is so, so desperately wanting to talk to someone but being so afraid to go to anyone.

It is being afraid to try and make plans.

It is being nervous for when you have plans and wanting to cancel them because of the “what if.” (I get anxiety even going to yoga classes, and I love yoga)

It is being afraid and having no idea why.

It is trying to find your real self through the clouded part of your mind.

It is trying to calm yourself down so no one sees your hysteria or worry.

It’s knowing the real you is still there, and you wonder if you’ll find her again.

It is wanting to relax and having not a goddamn clue how.

It is exhausting.

It is trying to push through the fear.

It is pushing through the fear to keeping living.

 

That’s anxiety, to me, at least. In a nutshell. And yes, I did have anxiety writing this, in part because I think I visited those negative emotions and they are the strongest. The other part is just because, well, I have anxiety. I’m looking to treat it better, but anxiety has been so hard for me to treat and so hard to figure something out. Eventually, I hope there’s a day where living through anxiety isn’t my primary concern of the day. Some people think I should just be able to stop thinking and worrying so much, but unfortunately my brain doesn’t work like that. It might not seem very serious but it impacts me daily. I know it’s hard for my friends and family to understand. It’s hard for me to understand too. I never thought “worrying” could manifest itself in such a way, physically and mentally, until the switch decided to flip in my brain. And I haven’t even talked about panic attacks. I just hope this gives a little bit more understanding.

Peace and Love,


VicMik

Why I Love my Short Hair – and Myself

FIRST: Last week, my sorority at my alma mater celebrated “ANAD Week,” for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Seeing their posts on social media made me think about the pressures we put on physical appearance and the importance of self-love. Thus, this post. Thanks, DPhiE at RMU!

I’ve come to the conclusion short hair gets a bad rap and is underrated. As the proud owner of a pixie cut, I feel like I’ve heard it all from “you’re so confident!” to “isn’t that a lesbian haircut?” (which, I don’t even know what that means.). I don’t think it’s a sign of confidence, I’m straight, and I didn’t know haircuts had sexual orientations anyways. Many people assume it’s the type of cut that a woman gets after a bad breakup, when she’s recovering from herself, or for some other reason for the shock factor. Recently, I was chatting with my hairstylist/sorority sister, Alyssa, (who has her own fantastic blog, Any Given Runway!) about having short hair and it kind of got my thoughts going about styles and the shock factor.

While I certainly don’t mind making bold moves with my hair (the ultimate accessory that will always change back, eventually. Might as well experiment with it. Just went from brown with blonde highlights to cherry cola red), the reason why I love my pixie and keep it isn’t exactly dramatic: It’s simple for me to style in the morning. I can blow dry it and go, I can ruffle it (maybe not the best word) and go; there’s still a plethora of things I can do to style it differently. And to be honest, how many of us wear the same style day in and day out? I did when my hair was longer. What is the difference of wearing the same way if it is long or short?

I don’t have a ton of confidence. I would say 97% of the time, I like my hair. There are days I love how it looks and yes, I have confidence. There are days where I can’t stand how I look and wish I had a mask (that’s an exaggeration). I have days where I question why I cut off my hair. People tell me all the time how I have to be so confident to wear my hair so short. Why do I have to have confidence to do something like that? Why can’t I just wear my hair short because I like it? I’ve been asked if I worry that guys won’t be attracted to me because of my short hair – dude, if a guy isn’t talking to me simply because I wear my hair short, then that’s probably not the type of guy I want to be with.

You may, yet again, be wondering what the hell my point is. I just wonder, why do we judge so much on our looks? Why does everything have to have a reason behind it? Why can’t we just be as people and live? I just think it is important to love ourselves as we are. One of my favorite quotes is BeYOUtiful. Be yourself! Be beautiful! YOU are beautiful as YOU are. Not as anyone else. As you. The individual that you are. There  is so much judgement when it comes to looks and such a pressure to conform, but it would be such a boring world if we were all the same! Please tell me anyone who disagrees with that. Because I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t be boring if we were all the same.

          Our individuality is what makes us beautiful, and it is what makes the world go ‘round. I really think we don’t stress individuality enough, or we at least do not reward it enough. It is as if we are afraid to leave our comfort zones – so we stay with what we know and judge what we don’t. But we don’t grow this way. I think it is really important to embrace our individual quirks and streaks. Our physical appearance is only one way to do it – but love yourself! I can’t say that enough. Love your imperfections. Embrace what makes you stand out. And I think that’s why I do love my short hair. My pixie makes me stand out a little bit. It’s something different. It’s me. BeYOUtiful.

Peace and Love,

VicMik