The Freedom of Coming Home

There’s a moment when you come home and you undress out of whatever clothes you wore to be out in public. It feels like you’re shedding skin. Tearing away all the little bits of day that accumulated. Whether it was a good day or a bad day, you take it all off. You put on comfy clothes and you are in a safe place. You can feel the weight of the day lifting off of your shoulders and you become clean, new, in control.

I love that feeling.

I think that’s why I love being home so much. I’m free. I can be myself. I don’t have to put on a face anymore. I don’t have to pretend like everything is okay. If I want to throw things and cry uncontrollably, I can. If I want binge watch Mr. Robot while eating a family size bag of chips, I can. I am free. Of course sometimes the outside world leaks through the cracks. You start to think about your responsibilities. You start to think about your job, your friends, whatever drama is going on whether it involves you or it doesn’t, you start to think about your future, you start to think about your past. It does come through. Sliding in right before you close the front door. It hides in the corners as you be disgusting stuffing your face with junk food or mindlessly playing video games. It sometimes emerges and taps you on the shoulder. You try to shake it but sometimes you can’t.

But within these walls, you are safe to be whoever you want to be.

Honestly after an entire day of pretending to be happy when you’re dying inside, coming home to the four walls that surround you, hidden from the world, no longer pretending. You lay out all of your mistakes and shortcomings, your flaws and your insecurities. You set them free. You lay them out on the table, sort through them a little, watch them roll around in front of you. It doesn’t matter though. You can display all of these things and it won’t matter. No one is watching. No one can see. You are free.

I am free.

Sure, you’ll wake up tomorrow and have to do it all over again, smile when you don’t want to, laugh when things aren’t funny, put your mask back on, and say “I’m fine” when someone asks how you are doing. Sure, there are days when you are truly happy and having a great day and sure, there are days when everything is falling apart but you can’t show it. Sure, it becomes an endless cycle of redundancy. Sure.

But that moment when I am home, when I do shed all of the shit from the day, I remind myself that regardless of whatever is happening, in that moment, I am free.

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From Time to Time

The feeling of inadequacy has been a reoccurring theme in my life.

It digs its nails into my skin until it draws blood. It haunts me at night, whispering mindless nonsense into my ears. It crawls into bed with me and makes itself comfortable within my bones. It buries its head in my bosom and asks for one more bedtime story. It wakes me in the middle of the night, shaking me awake, leaving me restless and worn out.

The constant feeling of never being enough taps on my window sills like rain in the middle of a storm. It becomes routine. I now live in a constant state of questioning whether I’m doing the right thing or not, a constant state of wondering if I’m a failure, if I’m even worth anyone’s time.

Every critique of my character becomes categorized in a library of passing comments I’ve created inside my mind.

Every mistake I’ve made neatly piles up in the corner of my room, filling up the walls and towering over me as I sleep. I am only awoken by the crumbling reminders that fell on top of me in the middle of the night.

I lay awake at night, staring at the ceiling, until my eyes adjust to the darkness and I see the shadows of my insecurities drifting about my room, dancing between the piles of my mistakes, swaying to the sound of the tapping on the windows, steadily moving to the beat of my weary heart.

It’s a heavy and draining life to live. It’s exhausting and after a while, I lose little bits of hope as it falls off of me like the deteriorating paint job on the walls of abandoned houses.

But from time to time, I will take up the paint brush and paint over the broken pieces. I’ll put on several coats until you can no longer see the concrete.

From time to time, I’ll wake up to the dancing of my mistakes and insecurities and I’ll learn to lead. I’ll take them all by the waist and create my own beat.

From time to time, I’ll clear my room, I’ll dust the corners and I’ll neatly categorize all of my faults into shelves of past tense.

From time to time, I refuse to tell them another bedtime story, I bandage my wounds, and I hold them close to my heart and soothe them to sleep.

From time to time, I become better than my own thoughts. I tell myself that I will not take anymore of this and I learn to smooth out the wrinkles of my own heart.

From time to time, I use these as reminders that I’m still worth living.

Living with Mental Illness: Anxiety

It’s Friday night and my friend and I have planned to go out. It was supposed to be a fun time. Time to forget about the work week and just let loose. I prepared myself because I’m only of those people who need to some fair warning before going out. I spent the entire week, pumping myself up and getting mentally ready.

The night comes and I am suddenly washed with an ominous feeling of disdain and anxiety. The week has not been kind to me but I push everything aside and tell myself that I’ve been preparing an entire week for this and my friend has been so excited for this too. So I decide to push through my emotions and go.
It doesn’t hit until I’m in the club. It’s extra crowded tonight and there are so many people. Im suddenly overcome with a field of emotions. My chest tightens and I can’t breathe.
“Not again,” I find myself whispering. My friend becomes so concerned about me. He isn’t sure if I’m going to vomit or faint. I’m crouching on the floor at this point because my claustrophobia and my anxiety is getting the best of me as if to say, “I told you so.” I promptly get up and push through the crowd and try to get some air.
I try and get back into the groove of the crowd but I can feel my body tense up every step I take. I can’t take it anymore and I ask to leave. Forcing my friend to leave with me since we came together.
Another night ruined because my anxiety got in the way. Because I wasn’t strong enough to be okay.
I wish that this was an one time thing.
I wish that I didn’t have to spend days preparing to face big crowds and be social.
I wish I could control my emotions.
But I can’t.
I have ruined so many nights because I couldn’t handle the pressure or the crowd. I’ve prevented myself from having a good time because I gave into my anxiety and depression and refused to leave.
It’s like I just can’t win.
I’m stuck.
If I do go out, my anxiety and depression overwhelms me and I can’t even stand.
If I don’t go out, I prevent myself from spending time with my friends and being social, I shut myself up from the world.
I want to go out and have a good time. I want to be able to stand in big crowds without having panic attacks.
I want to be able to be a normal human and withstand stuff like this.
People tell me that I’m just being lazy or anti social. I try and play it off, joking that I just hate people.
People tell me that depression and anxiety are just stupid excuses.
They don’t see the validity in my disease.
They don’t see the agony and pain I’m in because I just want to be normal.
I don’t want to be this way.
I don’t want little things to affect me so much that I physically can’t get out of bed.
I don’t want my anxiety to cripple me into loneliness.
I don’t want my anxiety to ruin another one of my friend’s nights.
I don’t want to cry alone in my car because I feel like a complete failure for not being able to go inside a club.
I don’t want to feel this way.
But I do.
I can’t help it.
I’m not doing this on purpose.
I just need you to know that.
Mental illness is not just in the mind.
It’s physically draining.
It’s paralyzing and it’s terrifying.
It kills you from the inside out.
It tears you apart little by little.
Tearing away at your walls and taking bits of your soul.
So when someone says that they can’t do something because of their anxiety, please try to be understanding.
I got lucky and have friends who are very understanding of my illness. I still feel terrible and broken up inside about ruining a perfectly good time.
Mental illness is just that, an illness.
Just because you can’t physically see it or can’t put a cast on it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
If you’ve never broken a bone, you can’t know what it feels like but you know that it hurts and it’s not something you “just get over.”
If you’ve never experienced mental illness, you can’t know what it feels like either so don’t tell me to just “get over it” because we are trying and it’s slowly killing us because it’s a battle that we must fight and a lot of us face it alone because we are told we are just being stupid or that it’s made up.
We aren’t.
I promise you.
We aren’t.

The Settling

“I can’t do this anymore,” she spoke softly but firmly, “I just can’t.”

She drowned her face into her hands and her body moved with her breathing. Her voice was filled with disappointment and a tinge of shame. She felt everything and it hurt her. She didn’t just give her heart, she gave her soul, her body, her everything. She started to numb herself, she spent her days into neutral. She always ended up feeling empty and hollow. She entered love like a sin and flogged herself with the pain of self-questioning, leaving her bruised but hallowed.

She breathed into the air, hoping for an answer from a silent god. She felt the world seeping into her skin and onto her bones. She twisted and turned her soul like an old Rubik’s cube in hopes of fitting into the colors of the spaces around her. She couldn’t do it. She never really could get it right. She thrusted her chest out and threw her head back in a desperate attempted to feel something. She let it all in. The anger, the pain, the sadness, the memories, and finally the calm.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she spoke weakly with determination, “I don’t want to.”

-jl

 

How to Change Your Life in 106 Days (approx.)

As my study abroad comes to an abrupt end, I thought I would post something kind of wrapping everything up as well as update you guys on my last few days.

So as I said in my last post, I went to Barcelona. A beautiful trip where I got to be a Cheetah Girl as well as watch my favorite soccer/football (whichever you prefer) play. I got to go with my good friend, Lauren, who has also been studying abroad but in Germany. Getting there was such a pain in the ass since I missed my flight out and then looked extremely suspicious running around the airport asking everyone if there was a flight out to Barcelona that day. I got there though and it was a beautiful experience. Barcelona is really an amazing city.
Also shout out to my study abroad friends, Meredith and Hannah, for being there for me when I was a complete mess and another shout out to my love, Philip, for being there for me even though we are 3900 miles away from each other. Thanks for listening to my problems as I cried on the floor of the Edinburgh airport and you had a meeting to go to.
It’s nice having great people around you.

Anyways, this past week has been quite hectic. I had my final papers to write and I had to try and fit in everything I possibly could to take in Edinburgh one last time before I leave. It’s been quite emotional. I can’t quite figure out my feelings. I’m excited to go back and see my family, friends and queso dip but I’m also really sad to be leaving this place. Edinburgh has been my home for the past 4 months and I am not ready to let it go. I fell in love with this city and it kind of breaks my heart to leave it. I have learned so much from this city and I feel like it has so much more to teach me. I’ll come back though. I can feel it. Just like how I felt when I came to this beautiful city the first time. It’s a love affair that is not near its end. I grew up a lot here. Being 3900 miles away from a safety net kind of does that. It’s the closest thing to real independence that I’ve felt and it’s terrifying. It’s been interesting.

I decided to study abroad because a part of me wanted to run away from everything back home. I thought I could leave behind my problems. I got too uneasy and I got too scared. I told myself it was a new experience and it would be good for me and it was all those things but I’m also starting to realize the only reason I did it was to just press the restart button and hide away from my feelings. Before coming here, I was very unsteady. I wasn’t very happy and I felt like I was lying to myself about everything. I was simply pretending to be happy and none of it was real. I stopped feeling and I became extremely numb to everything around me. So I wanted something to wake my sense and just reset everything and it did. In a sense it did work but in a sense, it was foolish of me to try and run from, well, myself. Depression doesn’t just disappear because you run from it. It follows you everywhere and it’ll hit you stronger than ever because it smells fear. I learned that. In so many different ways. I’m a better person for it though.
It’s been about 2 years since going to the hospital. I really thought I would be so much better by now. It’s still a massive uphill battle. I feel like everyone just expects me to be 100% cured because I went to the hospital and did the whole lot. So I kept pretending to be 100% cured when I wasn’t. I think it made everything so much worse. I got panic attacks more frequently and I never used to get those so that was real annoying. I think I have insomnia now, which is also real annoying. It’s all just a ball of annoying and I’m over it. So I left. I packed everything and decided to leave. I was done. But shit follows you and it all hit me at once. All the emotions I kept hidden hit me all at once like a damn freight train late for a delivery or something. It’s not a pleasant experience, let me tell you that.
So I finally realized that I don’t have to be 100% cured. 5 days in the hospital isn’t going to cure years of depression. I don’t know why that was so hard to understand for me. I also realized that it’s okay to not be okay. I didn’t have to pretend all the damn time. It’s okay to feel things. It’s okay to let people in. It’s okay. I’m not broken. I’m not damned. I’m just going through some things. It took me 106 days and a plane ticket to Scotland to realize that.
If you ever feel like studying abroad, you should. If you feel the urge to take the opportunity, you should. That pull you feel means you are just itching to become something greater than yourself. Studying abroad is a beautiful experience that thrusts you into a situation where you have to depend on yourself in ways you won’t understand until you do it. You take that step and it’s life changing. I came to Scotland hoping for an escape but I simply met a part of myself that I never really knew before. That sounds real cheesy but it’s the truth. So far looking back on my experience, studying abroad was probably one of the greatest decision I made for myself. You learn a lot about yourself. You realize what you’re capable of.
I don’t know if I’m going back a stronger and better person. I don’t know if I’m more grown up or wiser. I just know that it was worth it. Everything that has happened to me prior to studying abroad and the actual studying abroad part, it was all worth it. It was worth the tears and pain I felt before. It was worth getting smacked in the face by my own faults. It was worth the battle. It’s been a challenging semester but it was worth it. It was all worth it. Because in the end, it was an amazing time. I wouldn’t trade it in for the world. I’ve met some amazing people and experienced amazing things.

Thank you, Edinburgh. Thank you so much.

-jl

My Reason for Living

“To live is an awfully big adventure.” – J.M. Barrie

An adventure that we should never deprive ourselves from.


Our conversation came to a soft lull and we carefully sipped our coffee.
In comfortable silence, we waited in the quiet pause.
It was like when we first met, slightly awkward but strangely comforting. We were complete in our silence but we were so desperate for words, grasping for more.
You smiled so softly, across the kitchen table and it made me smile too.
You gently traced the rim of the mug with your fingers and I watched them dance so gracefully. I became mesmerized as if you were casting a spell.
I remember the sun sheepishly peaking through the curtains to see if we were doing okay. I remember the air feeling so fresh and warm between us.
Conversation would pick back up so smoothly and our days went in that rhythmic wave. We were so content within each other’s presence and it was like I’ve known you for all my life and just that feeling was an honor that I did not quite know how to handle.
I sat there in admiration of you and everything we had become over time.
I remember rolling up my sleeves without thought and you stopped mid sentence and you fell uncomfortably quiet. I looked up at you and you were fixated on my arms, on my scars.
You slowly reached over and traced the scars with your gentle fingers.
“How?” you asked but you already knew the answer.
I didn’t answer, I pulled away but you grabbed my hands in such a fluid motion that I forgot to resist and I felt the tears rush up and I tugged my armor on as I got my sword at the ready. A war raged behind my eyes.
“I’m so happy you’re here right now.” You whispered into my hands as you drew them to your face.
Suddenly I heard the dropping of metal, the clanking of shields ceased, and my heart fell through the trap door of my soul.
I suddenly realized that my entire existence was waiting for this exact moment. In that second, my scars began to heal. I don’t know why but those words crashed into my skin and shattered under the pressure of the wave.
Then I felt your tears and the last support of the dam broke free and I was no longer myself. The realization of the heaviness of my own self-inflicted scars was too much for my physical being to bear.
If I had died, if I had succeeded that night, if the darkness swallowed me whole instead of spitting me back up, I would’ve never met you and there was a certain amount of shame that came with that. It broke my heart to imagine a world where I wouldn’t be sitting here with you in your kitchen in comfortable silence, in comfortable bliss. I think it broke yours too.

That was the day I told you I loved you for the first time.
That was the day I realized what it meant to love myself as well.
Even though time has passed and you are no longer mine, I still remember the touch of your hands as if you were pulling me out of the abyss that I fell into many years back. Loving myself did not come easily but the way you held my hands paved the way for me to realize how important it was to live. Your love made me realize how important it is to keep fighting. In hopes of meeting another you, in hopes of never missing out on the beautiful moments of life, I learned to love myself.

-j.l

The Future and You

Let’s all sit and share our feelings.
Okay, I’ll go first, since you all insist.

If you have, for some odd reason, chosen to keep up with this blog, then you probably know about my emotional problems and that I have an endless list of them. Yeah, I’m an emotional wreck at least 135% of the time. It’s a great attribute to have. I get job offers left and right. Anyways, I’ve been diagnosed with depression for a few years now, since high school. Here’s the thing about being depressed at a rather young age, you never really expect to live for very long. Yup, this is going to take a turn. I am now 21. If you asked 14 year old me, I would probably tell you that I never thought this would happen. I never imagined myself growing up, going to college, getting internships, joining a sorority, and eventually (and hopefully) graduating. I never thought I would even reach the age of 21. This is all very strange for me. I never had plans for the future. I never thought this would happen. That’s what being depressed at a young age feels like. Now that I am at this age, I feel so lost. I don’t know what to do. I didn’t prepare for this. I didn’t prepare to live this long. That must sound morbid and messed up but it’s true. Now I’m thinking about the future, what kind of jobs I want to apply for, what grad school I want to go to, what kind of life I want to live in the future. I feel like I’m 10 steps behind everyone because I never thought this would actually happen to me. Sometimes it hits me that I’m in my twenties and I get chills. It’s a strange thought. I don’t know. I’m just a bit taken aback.
But here’s why I find joy in this revelation.
I made it this far. I did it. I survived. Every day I’m alive, I am beating my own illness. Every day that I refuse to give in to my illness, I win. With every day that I get older, I become stronger. I am living a future that I never saw for myself. I am living a future when I didn’t ever believe that I had a future. I haven’t achieved a lot of the things I wish I would’ve by now. I am terrified of the future and I am unsure of so many things but I am damn proud of myself for getting this far. I have a future to be terrified about. I have a lot of catching up to do but I’m doing it. I’m alive. I survived and I will keep surviving. It’s a small victory and it’s a constant battle but it’s something. I am stronger than my mental illness. I am better than my depression. I am alive. Every day I get myself out of bed and do normal people things, I am beating the shit out of my depression and it feels hella good.
If I can find the strength to take one step, you can too. Life isn’t all fun and games. Life sucks and it’s not going to ease up but you’ve made it this far. You’ve survived. You are alive. Even if you haven’t had the same issues as me, even if you don’t have some kind of mental illness, you are here, you are strong, you are alive. Remember that. Don’t be sad with every hour that passes, be confident that you did not let that hour destroy you when it could’ve. Build the years, find your strength. Choose happiness. Choose to live. Choose yourself.
I am so grateful that I did make it this far. I am glad that I didn’t kill myself. I have miles to go but I’ll take it step by step and I’ll fight til the end.
Please don’t give up. You have a future. Your future is waiting for you. Don’t let it down. Every day is an accomplishment and don’t ever forget that. Stay strong. I believe in you. I hope that you wake up one day and realize how far you’ve made it, how strong you’ve become, and importantly, how great you are. I hope you surprised yourself. I hope you choose to live.

-jl