Poetry

     I've been writing a lot more poetry these past few years; almost everything I write revolves around my mental health and its effects on me. In 2015, after I finished the final draft of The Commodious Life of Cecily Charn, I reached a patch of at least a year where I couldn't write. I was so, so sick. I didn't have any concentration. People would look at me, be speaking to me, and their words seemed like a foreign language. My brain wasn't processing the world correctly, and even if I finally reached a place of understanding, it was such a delayed response that it hardly mattered anymore. I was also so tired I could hardly stand up most days. I felt faint all the time; I would become very dizzy and blackout for twenty seconds at a time. I wasn't (mentally especially, but also physically) in any shape to write. 

     As I've mentioned before, my body had extremely adverse reactions to antidepressants (it still does), which, combined with malnourishment and stress, caused these symptoms. Once I went off the antidepressants that were putting my life in danger and stopped losing weight so rapidly, I would have very brief bursts of clarity and the energy needed to quickly write down my thoughts. I wrote my first poem because I was frustrated, and emotional, and I needed to type it all out. I couldn't write something long, though, so the thoughts wove themselves into a poem. From then, I was hooked. It felt so nice to be able to write, even if I was also plagued with guilt for not doing something "more productive." (As I've mentioned before, I have some issues with the fine line between productivity and overworking oneself.) 

     I stopped writing again for a long time after, when even poems were too much. Just recently, I started writing again. All the time, I get these ideas. I have thoughts for when I finally start editing the book I finished the first draft of in October of 2016. I catch snippets of lines that would be perfect for a new book, or a certain scene, or a new idea for a poem. I always get them at the most random times, which means I now have a pile of index cards and sticky notes all over the place. As I was typing some of these completed works into my laptop for safekeeping, I couldn't help but look back at my old poems—it had been so long since I'd read any of them. 

     It was strange. I couldn't necessarily remember when I wrote each piece, because many of them were written late at night during a short burst of semi-clear thinking before the brain fog settled back down like a heavy curtain over my mind. I felt torn, though, like half of me was transported back to those dark nights while the rest of me was in the present, sitting in the summer sun of my backyard. The poems were dark. They weren't necessarily scary, because I always knew that no matter what kinds of thoughts I had, no matter how much I wanted to simply stop existing, I would never take my own life. 

     I have the thought that suicide doesn't end suffering—it simply transfers it. And the thought of passing on my pain to my mom, or my brother, or my dad, or anyone near me who would wonder if they missed something, if things could have been different... That thought is scarier than reliving my worst day over and over. And trust me, just thinking of living like that makes my throat close up and my skin turn red and my heart speed up. It seems unthinkable. It seems impossible. It seems like Hell on Earth. And sometimes, just living feels that scary. Another one of my thoughts, though, is that we can always keep going. People often say that they can't do something. The thing is, though, that they probably can. We can keep moving and keep conquering the "impossible" until we meet the thing that kills us, as blunt as that may sound. And seeing as I've no idea what will eventually kill me, my philosophy is that God will always give me the strength to do the things I am far to weak to do on my own. All I have to do is push through and come face-to-face with them, even if I'm trembling as I confront my worst fears. 

     If you just read my poems, though, and you didn't know that, you would be worried. My first thought was fear that someone would find them one day and think that they were recent, and that I was suicidal, because I don't want to scare someone like that. The world has tried everything it can to get rid of me, but I'm still here, and I plan on sticking around as long as God intends me to. 

     As I read the poems, it was almost like a gothic rainbow. Mainly, they started out as the darkest color known to man. As they progressed, though, they slowly became lighter, even if they're yet to near anything resembling a bright hue.  It was nice be reminded that even if things aren't good, they aren't at their worst, and that's something. I'm usually hesitant to share that I've improved from whatever my past predicament was, because we're used to a world of black and white, healthy and sick, and I live in a world of chronic illness and the terms "healthier" and "regression." I wrote a poem about it, and I wanted to share it, because it explains a bit of what it's like for me, though I truly do enjoy and appreciate people's kind words, when those around me underestimate what I'm still going through just because I'm better than I previously was. I titled the poem "Relatively."

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They beam when they see me. 
“You’re so healthy!”
“You’re doing so great!”
“I’m so glad you’re better!”
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the comments;
It’s not that there isn’t a bit of truth in their words.
I’m healthier than I was, relatively speaking.
I’m doing better than I was, relatively speaking.
But I’m not healthy. I’m not better. 
I never will be, in all likeliness,
Unless I'm granted a miracle. 
People don’t like it when I say that,
That I won’t get better.
The thought makes them uncomfortable;
It’s not a situation they’re used to dealing with.
In a world full of “Get Well Soon!” cards
And fast-acting treatments,
They think I’ve given up hope, sometimes.
I haven’t. 
It’s hard for them to realize that I’m okay with
Just being okay,
Because it’s all I know. 
I don’t know what it’s like to be healthy,
Live freely,
And feel vibrant—to feel alive.
I don’t know what a true childhood is like, 
What a healthy one would be like,
Even in a world where no one goes without adversary. 
I’m okay with a life of ups and downs,
And I’m thankful I’m having an “up” right now.
It hurts when people diminish the health problems I still face
Every single day, though.
It still hurts when people pretend I haven’t
Gone through a single tough experience in my life.
It hurts when I have to hide every day, 
When I have to put on an act daily.
That was the hardest part about leaving the hospital,
Even though being there was far harder.
I still pretended there, sometimes. 
I didn’t always show how upset I was.
I could openly talk about my feelings, though,
And my symptoms, 
And things I was facing,
If I needed. 
Even if the responses weren’t always what I wanted them to be,
I at least knew they were coming from an educated place,
Even if my case isn’t always textbook. 
In the real world, no one knows,
And no one cares. 
They want me to just be better already, 
Or put on a smiling face so they can pretend I am.
So yes.
Relative to where I was,
I’m better. I’m healthier. 
But I still live with pain and anguish every day,
And I never know what the next day will bring.
Will it be better, relatively?
Will it be worse, relatively?
It’s a game of comparisons, but
The world sees it as black and white. 

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I don't know if that helps clarify or condense my feelings at all; it does to me, but they're my thoughts, so I'm a bit too familiar with them to truly tell :) . I changed the poem a bit from its first draft; I added in the part about a miracle later on. Not all prayers are answered, because not all prayers are God's will. Some people don't quite understand that, and they pushed me to pray for a miracle with my whole heart (which I feel no resentment for, as they had good intentions). And when I've listened and prayed for miracles in the past, truly believed in what I was praying for, I've been met with heartbreak. It hurts. It hurts so badly to pour yourself into the belief of something only for it to fall through. That hurt more than thinking about life continuing as it's proceeded thus far for me, and it was hard on my relationship with God. I know now that though I shouldn't condone myself to a life of illness, I'm not wrong for being okay with it, and I will always be thankful for God's support and love, no matter what His plan for my life. I don't always get a whole lot of support from those outside of my family and my God, but their never-ending love and compassion are a gift I'm so very thankful for, and it makes me even more thankful when I receive sweet words from more unexpected sources. 

New School (Take Two)

 (For those of you who don't know about my first school change or my second one, I would recommend reading those posts first so this one makes a bit more sense.)

     I spent a good thirty minutes trying all different ways of approaching this topic, but in the end, I think it's best to just jump right into it. I am changing schools again next year, because I am still not healthy enough to attend full-time, traditional school.

     Last year, I got accepted to the magnet school in our area after 10 long years of praying and waiting. The year wasn't what I expected it to be by any means, whether that's only being able to attend one full semester before I spent the vast majority of my second semester in the hospital or even just the environment of the school. I'm so thankful for my time at last year's school, though. I met so many wonderful and incredibly kind people and got the privilege of experiencing some of the quirky and unique traditions of the school. My year wasn't all sunshine, of course; I struggled with managing homework, a required sport, and friendships as I dealt with my rapidly declining health. However, I will always treasure the fact that I got to go to this school, even if it wasn't for very long. 

     Next year, I'm attending a program at the community college in our area where I will simultaneously be a high school student and a college student. I'll take all my classes through the college and work towards my high school diploma and my associate's degree at the same time. I will still attend school five days a week, but I'll only have two classes a day Monday-Thursday, and I will only be at the college for an hour or so on Fridays. This significantly shorter school day will help accommodate my doctor's appointments and hopefully keep my fatigue from getting quite as severe. 

     This was such a hard decision for my family and me to make. We deliberated over it for months; we tried to think of every possible scenario that could occur at either school (which, of course, is impossible) and every possible way we could make things work at our current school. In the end, though, it came down to what's realistically best for my health (or even possible), and that isn't the school I attended last year. 

     Starting over is hard. Having to learn a new school is hard. Change is hard. This is necessary change, though, and I'm trying to combat the anxiety that it presents with hope that this will be a good school year. I know there will be times where I terribly miss my old school. I know there are times I wonder what things would be like had things been different. Just knowing those things, though, is invaluable to combating them. This new school is a great opportunity in so many ways: it's a chance to accommodate my health, earn my associate's degree two years faster than I would in traditional school, and learn to navigate college while still having support from the program I'm attending college through. I'm hopeful that I'll enjoy my time at this new school, meet more fantastic people, and continue to grow academically. 

13 Weeks

     I've been wanting to publish this blog post for a long time. The hardest part was finding the time and motivation to sit down and write. It's been weeks since I wrapped up my first draft, though, and I still haven't hit that button that says "save and publish." I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm nervous; being vulnerable is still hard, even all these blog posts later. Maybe it's because I'm a perfectionist who always feels there's something more to be fine-tuned in my work. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, though, and I feel that posting this during that time means something to me. So, seeing as it's May 31, I'm quickly running out of time. Just like with my two books, I've come to the point in creation of a written work where I have to share it with the world as is, even if that state is far from perfection. 

     Mental health is something near and dear to my heart, because it's something near to my everyday life. Mental illness is not my friend, but it's my constant companion. I was born with mental illness, and I'll die with it. That doesn't mean the years between need to be lived as a resigned slave, though, or that I can't live days where I almost forget about the illnesses I have. I'll have great times and terrible ones and everything in between. (Which, even if my emotions might carry more extremes than some people's, this isn't too different from everyone's lives!) My life has been a constant fight against mental and physical health issues. Each year I think I can't take much more, and every time God shows me that I can and I will withstand whatever comes my way. The pattern these past 16 years has been much the same: when one thing gets better, another gets worse. When I get a good month, the worse one that follows is even more horrible. When I find people, friends, or places that I begin to feel at home in, my health always tears me away from them.

     For the past 13 weeks, my health has taken me from school and put me in various hospitalization programs. For 10 weeks, I was in a partial hospitalization program. From 8-2:30 each day, I was at Rogers Memorial Health. I spent my days doing CBT, exposures, interoceptives, and all sorts of things I'd love to further explain in a future blog post. For now, I'll just give a short description of CBT, the kind of therapy Rogers operates on. CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy, and since Rogers uses a form of this therapy called ERP (exposure response prevention), it involves performing exposures. Exposures are based on things you're terrified of. You work with a therapist trained to perform CBT to find things that cause you anxiety, interfere with your daily life, or your mental illness makes frightening due to distorted thoughts. Then, you perform that action over and over, all the time recording what your anxiety is as you begin and end each trial (one trial is one performance of the fearful activity, while five trials make up an exposure). While doing this, you're supposed to avoid coping skills (such as rationalizing the fear, telling yourself you're not in any real danger, etc.) and instead make the situation as bad as possible. (For example, let's say your fear was your family dying in a car crash. To make the exposure as effective as possible, you might tell yourself that you're unsure where your family members are and that it's storming badly outside; you might even run through what life would be like without them, or imagine the pain they would be in if they were injured.) The goal is that with enough repetition, the situation won't be as terrifying, and it therefore won't interrupt your daily activities when you imagine or encounter those fears. Rogers also takes some fears and creates more extreme exposures that probably won't apply to real life situations (for example, if you had contamination fears, they might have you eat off of a toilet seat); however, their reasoning behind this is that if you've gone to extremes, even if you regress a bit after treatment ends, you'll still be able to function more normally. Finally, interoceptives are activities that are supposed to mimic the effects of a panic attack so that people who get them can learn to work through them in a safe environment. Some interoceptives are breathing through a coffee stirrer, having yourself breathe as fast and deeply as possible, holding your breath, frantically shaking your head, running up and down stairs, and being spun around in a chair. 

     If you're anything like me, you're probably reading this and thinking something along the lines of Wow, okay, that's definitely not legal. Or safe. Or humane. Should we call the authorities or something? To that, my response is that I was you. To be honest, I still am you a lot of the time. When I first heard about CBT, I was in the third grade. The therapy was mentioned when my family was first needing to find more serious treatments for my mental health. As I heard about CBT, and later read about it, I kind of just sat there in frozen disgust and declared, "Nope!" anytime the therapy was mentioned. I "managed" for the next seven or so years. (When you grow up with mental health issues, "managing" is sometimes a keyword for "feeling absolutely miserable more often than not.") Last year, my mom and I heard of Rogers Memorial Health; the program had just opened up a new branch in Nashville, and it was a revolutionary program to us! However, with the emphasis of their treatment on OCD, we were wary. My OCD has always impacted my life—sometimes more than I realize—but it has never been nearly as bad as it was when I was in the third and fourth grade. Back then, it was debilitating. Every bit of every day was consumed by my OCD. So, all these years later, I felt that the program had come years too late. 

     Most of my life, my mental health has declined (spare my first couple of years of life and my fifth grade to sixth grade years). Sometimes it declines faster than other times, though. While some times I can feel myself slipping down a slight slope, the past few years have been a full-speed tumble down a hill. My parents brought up Rogers again last February, and for the sake of honesty, I was very uncertain. I'd been sent away from so, so many professionals. I'd sought help from so many places only to leave them worse than I'd entered them. Once I realized Rogers was inevitable, I asked if we could wait until summer for the sake of school. One thing that my mom said to me was that she wouldn't wait to get me treatment if I had a broken bone, needed my tonsils removed, etc. The first time I heard this, I stopped. I actually, physically stopped what I was doing. I talk about advocation for mental health so much. I try my best to educate others on mental health conditions and their effects. However, I wanted to delay my own treatment due to school. I don't think that was wrong, as I go to a very competitive and fairly fast-paced school. As well, when you have chronic illnesses, you can't take a break from life every time you aren't feeling well. If you did so, you would never leave your house; you learn to deal with things that wouldn't be manageable under normal circumstances. Finally, mental health often takes longer to aid than physical health. Whereas I would have gotten a cast and been back at school in a day if I'd broken a bone, most mental illnesses take months to improve even a bit, and even once things improve, they're often not perfect. Maintaining mental health to the best of your abilities is a lifelong process that takes a lot of time and dedication, and we live in a world that is used to quick fixes. 

     Going to Rogers was difficult. It was (and is) really, really hard. I was finally enjoying school a bit more when I had to leave yet again. I became isolated from my peers. I had to give up the few, precious activities I had left, such a playing and learning instruments. I had to prioritize treatment (which is every weekday from 8 to 2:30, is located about 40-60 minutes from home, and comes with about 2 hours of homework every night of the week) while still completing all my schoolwork. Due to my low weight, I was put in the eating disorder program at Rogers instead of the OCD one. It took the staff a couple of weeks to get to know me and my story and confirm that my weight loss was actually due to medication side effects, not an eating disorder. Even once that happened, since I'm in the ED program, I still have to abide by the same rules as the other patients.

    My time at Rogers has been one of the worst times of my life, but it's also shown me so much. It's shown me another level of strength I didn't know I had. It's shown me another level of perseverance I didn't know I possessed. I've shared a bit about my experiences with weight restoration. It's one of the worst things I have ever had to do. It is more painful than I could ever describe. It has been a year-and-a-half long process that has been of misery, tears, and setbacks; just the sheer length of my weight restoration journey (due to inaccurate medical information, and being hypermetabolic) has meant I've been worn thin by the process. (No pun intended, though I'll admit I did smirk when I caught this phrase during editing!) It has pushed me to my limits and then some. It has been full of people underestimating how excruciatingly painful it is, physically and mentally, to spend your entire day eating. This has been my life every day for so long now. With help from Rogers, though, the pain is paying off. A few weeks ago, I officially found out that I'm weight restored. My activity level is being able to be increased, and my meal plan is slowly decreasing. It's been a slow process. It's been a terrible one. It's worth it, though. Life isn't meant to be lived sedentary so that you can't do any of the activities you enjoy. Life isn't meant to be lived constantly twisting and turning in chairs, baths, and even plush couches, because there's nothing to prevent your bones from digging into the surfaces. Life isn't meant to be lived constantly trying to regain feeling in your fingers, toes, and hips, because you can't feel them for most of the winter. Life isn't meant to be lived where you're so weak you can hardly hold your schoolbooks. Life isn't meant to be lived with brittle hair and nails and painfully dry skin. You shouldn't have to resort to the children's section, because even the smallest teenage and adult clothes swallow you whole. Life was miserable when I was dangerously underweight, and even though the path to becoming healthy hasn't been easy, I don't have a single doubt that my life is so much better because of it. 

     The same goes for my treatment for OCD, clinical depression, GAD, and tics. When I first went to Rogers, things got a lot worse in all these categories, and for the sake of honesty, they stayed worse for quite a while before improving. Mainly, my depression and anxiety were terrible, and that's coming from someone who has lived with those disorders for years. I felt upset and isolated. I spent almost every afternoon for weeks and weeks in tears because of how much I hated treatment, how upset I was at the increasing severity of my already debilitating conditions, and agitated that I had to leave my school and peers for treatment when I wanted to wait until summer. I've spent years trying to alleviate the strain of mental illness. I've done everything: therapy, numerous medications and dozens of doses, seen many specialists, and done all the things that can sometimes alleviate mental health issues a bit (like exercising when I was healthier, making myself do the things my depression makes me want to avoid, etc.). It's upsetting to not know what it's like to be healthy. It's discouraging when specialists send you away with nowhere to go because they don't know what else to try. It's isolating when people don't understand what it's like to live with mental illness, or they underestimate it. That's all I knew, and it made me wary of sacrificing so much when I wasn't convinced it would help at all. Treatment has helped, though. I'm not cured. I don't feel miraculously better. I see small improvements every day, though, and I'm trying to enjoy each and every one of them. 

     On week eleven, my treatment was finally downgraded. Whereas I was in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) for 10 weeks, May 15 was my first day in an intensive outpatient program (IOP). This means I now only attend Rogers from 11-2 every day. This change is exciting, but it's also nerve-racking. Changes have always been hard for me, even when they're really good ones. I just keep trying to tell myself that this is perfect practice for the real world (as I so affectionately refer to life outside of hospital walls). With any luck, I'll be out of Rogers in 4-6 weeks from that May 15 date. The rest of the summer will be dedicated to finishing up the school year and getting ready for the one ahead. I'll still have therapy every week, of course. My mental illnesses aren't the kind that are typically cured in the way many people associate the word with (where the afflicted never suffers from the illness again). Life will be more normal, though, and more manageable. I've been just getting by for the past 16 years, and that's not something I should have to deal with for the duration of my life. My family's hopes were that this investment of a few months at Rogers would reap a lifetime of benefits. I can't attest to that, of course (I'm not even through with treatment yet!), but I can say that I've seen improvement thanks to the supportive and skilled team at Rogers and the support from my family and friends (the other kids I've met at Rogers have been absolute lifesavers these past 13 weeks). For that, I'm thankful. 

     Most people can never understand the mental and physical toll mental illness takes on a person, and that's hard to come to terms with. I want to help bridge the gap, though. That's why I've used this blog to share some of my story, even though it terrifies me to do so. Knowledge leads to understanding, and understanding leads to sympathy, and sympathy leads to less suffering for those who are already in so much pain.

Book Review: WHAT LIGHT

     I celebrated a birthday this past December, and one of my gifts was a ParnassusNext subscription. This subscription service sends a beautifully packaged, signed, first-edition copy of a newly released young adult novel each month. My mom and I had curiously kept an eye on the subscription service since it first launched, but we weren't sure if having such a variety of books would be a fun adventure or a bad fit for me. I was so excited when I found December's subscription wrapped up for me, though, and I immediately began reading Jay Asher's What Light. 

     To start off, I've never read one of Asher's novels before. I bought a copy of what's largely considered his most famous book, Thirteen Reasons Why, from Parnassus a year ago, but I haven't tackled the book quite yet. Another important point to consider when reading my thoughts is that I've never been overly drawn to books that revolve around a romance. If I'm choosing my own book, I can nearly guarantee I won't come home with one that's a romance unless it's also science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, etc. However, I'm always willing to expand my range of genres!

     The novel revolves around Sierra, a 16-year-old whose parents own a Christmas tree farm. Her family lives in Oregon, where the grow their trees, but they annually spend a month (Thanksgiving to Christmas) in California while they sell their trees during the holiday season. Sierra is used to spending the season with her best friend in California, Heather, while still keeping in touch with her friends back home in between helping her parents run the family business. Just after Heather pleads for Sierra to find someone special so the friends can double-date over the holiday season, Caleb enters the narrative in the form of a customer at Sierra's family's farm, and Sierra instantly finds him swoon-worthy. Heather is clearly against the relationship, though, due to ubiquitous rumors on the darker parts of Caleb's past. Sierra can't help being drawn to the stranger, though, and finds herself struggling to discover who Caleb truly is while looking past the constant warnings she's receiving about Caleb from around every corner. 

     I could tell by the first couple of pages that the writing style wasn't going to be the saving grace of this book, and I knew the plot itself would need to carry the book for it to be a real page-turner. The sentences are overly simple, and the characters are the typical, cliché teenage girls we've all read about. Still, I had hope for the novel as I continued.

     Sierra, the novel's main character, is a likable protagonist. She's a fitting balance between a novel's usual teenage star and someone with a bit of moxie. Caleb, who quickly becomes the potential love interest, is just about as enchanting as you can get. Though I didn't find myself tearing at the pages like a madwoman to see their relationship blossom, their connection made for an interesting read. 

     To quote the book's official synopsis, "By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since." While I won't be the person to spoil what this error was (this is a spoiler-free zone!), I will say it was a main component of the story, and rightfully so. Without that component, the novel would have been nothing more than a predictable and drab love story. However, with that being said, I do wish the fault was a bit better developed. Though a lot of time is dedicated to elaborating on the events before, after, and during the event, some of the reasoning was a bit shaky. Regardless, I still enjoyed the concepts of forgiveness and the long-lasting effects of a short lapse in judgement, because I think they're topics many people grapple with in real life. 

     Finally, one thing I loved about this novel was that though it was a romance, it wasn't solely based on physical affection. More often than not, fictional teen romances are nothing more than three hundred pages of passionate kisses and implied sex (because, for some reason, it's just too much for authors—especially young adult authors—to actually inscribe the word "sex"). This novel had a very well paced romance, especially for a story that took place over a month. Caleb and Sierra's relationship revolved far more around talking and spending time together than making out, and that's something I can always support. 

     All in all, I would rate What Light three stars out of five. I enjoyed the characters and approach to a romance even though the writing style was mediocre at best and some of the characters were brimming with banality. Though I didn't find myself awed by the story, and I wasn't left drooling over it far after I'd read the last page, it was one of the better romances I've encountered. 

Books of 2017

     One of my New Year's Resolutions was to do more of what fulfills me. I wanted to make it a priority to do the things that give me a sense of purpose. As a student, it's easy to fall victim to the doom and gloom of school's repetitive pattern: wake up, go to school, come home, do homework, go to bed, and repeat. One of the things that I love is writing, and it's something I've been able to do far less of lately. Writing novels is inconceivable at the moment, but blogging isn't quite as monumental a task.

     I've already started a journal with blogging goals for the year, and I have spent some time brainstorming new post ideas. What sparked my desire to brainstorm and, more important, write, occurred over spring break. I'd only read one novel in 2016 that wasn't required school reading, and it had been less than stellar. During winter break, though, I had the urge to curl up with a good novel. As I've mentioned, endometriosis causes me to have pretty nasty brain fog. So, even when life isn't too hectic to take a moment for literacy, reading just isn't feasible. When I had the desire to read, though, I sprung on the chance. I downloaded Salt to the Sea to my Kindle and flew through it in a few days of casual reading in between Christmas festivities. I absolutely adored the book, and a few days later, I received a ParnassusNext subscription for my birthday. December's novel was What Light, and I tore into it immediately. This book was a little less dazzling; it wasn't the worst novel I've read, or even close, but it wasn't anything special. Even so, the fact I'd read two books in such a short amount of time was an accomplishment! I wanted to read more. I wanted to write more. I was reminded why I loved creating so much by reading the works of others.

     My two passions, reading and writing, became a tangled mess and emerged as the idea to incorporate both activities into the New Year. I read an excellent book and ordinary book back-to-back, and it made me think of how the only other book I've reviewed on this blog was my favorite book, and it was hardly a review. It made me think, though, what's the good in only reviewing books we liked? It's just as valuable to report on the poorly written ones. Plus, learning to hone in my writing skills to review novels in an interesting and informative way is a skill I wouldn't mind refining. 

     So, this year I'll be writing a review on every book I read: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I'll be talking about why I love what I love and despise what I despise. After all, the reasons I shun a book might be just the reasons someone else adores it! I'll probably be sneaking in a few reviews of books I read before the New Year, like Salt to the Sea, but my first review will be on What Light by Jay Asher, as it's the first book I finished this year. So, if you're looking for a good book in 2017, swing by my blog. I'll be reading and reviewing a variety of genres and authors, so there will hopefully be a book for everyone! 

When WRONG was Wrong

     My inability to discover how to italicize within my blog posts' titles will be the death of me, mark my words. Today, I wanted to share a (slightly edited) version of my first assignment for the Creative Writing class I took last semester. The assignment was to write a personal memoir, and I decided to write mine concerning the creation of my two novels. This is something I haven't talked about on this blog, but it's a long overdue topic to address. I hope you enjoy it!

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    To understand the seething hatred I felt towards my first full-length novel, Wrong, you have to understand that I was actually angry with myself. It’s a spider web of knowledge, though, because to understand my anger you have to understand the smallest piece of me. My mom lovingly teases me, calling me an old lady. I’ve been to more doctor’s appointments than playdates or sleepovers. It’s been that way all my life, and it will probably never change; sometimes I’ve been content with that, and other times I’ve felt like the world was filling up with water and I didn’t have the slightest idea how to swim. What I always needed to change, though, was the support around me (or lack therefore of). 
     I've always had my parents on my side, but that was about it. When I was in early elementary school, my physical ailments weren’t quite so pronounced, and that meant my mental disorders were alone in the spotlight. You learn pretty quickly that there is absolutely no compassion, no sympathy, no anything from people that have never experienced mental illnesses and haven’t been educated on what they really are. So my family never talked about what I was going through, or which conditions I carried the names for, or how it was affecting us. I looked to novels for comfort, because if we’re being honest, that’s where I’ve always looked for comfort. I’d had these disorders either since the day I was born, or I’d developed them within the first five years of my life. They had been with me for as long as I could remember, and I wanted to hear from anyone new, even if they were fictional, who had the vaguest idea of what it was like. I wanted to read about people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or depression, or anxiety, or tics. I didn’t even care if they had the same type of depression or anxiety as me, just as long as I could hold a book and feel like I wasn’t so alone.
     My mom found two books: she could only find one for my age. It was about something I didn’t and don’t have (Synesthesia), but it didn’t even matter. It told the story of someone who hid what she was going through from her friends and classmates for years, and when they finally found out, it was okay. It wasn’t world-shattering. They didn’t call her names she would remember years later or tease her about the things she hated about herself (which were the reactions I unfortunately encountered). It gave me hope that it could be okay for me too one day. It was that hope that enabled a thought to grow throughout the years. 
     The thought first came when I wanted to enter a writing contest about people becoming friends despite their differences. My mom recommended writing a short story about a girl on vacation who meets a girl with tics; I was too much of a coward to write it. The term is admittedly me being too harsh on myself, because I was in the fifth grade at the time, but it’s the absolute truth. Even though I didn’t write the story, the thought never left me. When I was twelve and a new seventh grader, a particularly bad bout of both mental and physical problems that would last indefinitely began. On that Christmas, just shy of my thirteenth birthday, I unwrapped a laptop. In the heat of the moment I wrote a prologue and flew through my first and second chapters, because I couldn’t keep the characters and stories from developing anymore. I shoved the project away until eight months after my health took a turn for the worse, when I was presented with the opportunity to spend a month writing a novel. I picked up right where I’d left off and raced through chapter after chapter until I reached the first of many dreaded writer’s blocks. 
     Most writers will agree that inevitably, every fifteen thousand words or so, the inspiration that had been carrying you along will decide to go on vacation. The only way to get it back is to keep writing no matter what, and so I stumbled forward until it became like breathing again. I switched back and forth for sixty-two thousand words from the kind of graceful quotes you see hung on walls to the kind of plots you want to strangle. At least, I wanted to strangle my plot. Not at first; at first, I was proud to be writing a book. The day I submitted it, four months after I first sat down to really write, I felt numb. I stopped worrying about revisions and editing and focused on the fall of my eighth grade year. The numbness wore off, though, to disappointment. 
     This wasn’t what I wanted to do. This wasn’t the novel that displayed, as closely as possible, what it was like to live with different mental illnesses. This wasn’t the novel that was supportive and heartbreaking and enlightening. It was a novel that mentioned a few medical diagnoses, but majorly focused on a group of kids who were all desperate for relief from what they were going through. They were all craving someone that would help them pick themselves up and make them crawl to the finish line if they had to, because they couldn’t trust themselves to be their own coach. Maybe most of them were properly balanced between being unable to live a normal life but having to anyways, but my main character was not. She wasn’t a flat character by any means, but her level of struggle wasn’t what my side characters’ was. I told myself that she had less illnesses than the rest of them. I told myself that she formed her depression later in life than the rest of them (as if middle school should be considered “later in life”). It was a healing bandage for a moment, but then it would tear itself away, and it always hurt more than it had before. 
     It wasn’t Cinderella’s story at all, but it seemed a bit like a royal ball the day of my book’s ceremony. I put on a new, beautiful dress and walked into a bookstore that was entirely warm and bright for every bit the December night was dark and frigid. I was enveloped into a world where I was with my family, surrounded by congratulatory people, and I felt proud. I remember hearing my name called to go receive the first copy of my finished book I had ever seen, and I never wanted to let it go. 
     The feeling didn’t last. It faded, and faded, and faded as my moment of pride ended. I looked at the book and saw every flaw that had been left in its pages, because no matter how many times you revise, you just can’t edit a novel in two and a half months and expect it to be flawless. I didn’t think it was just flawed, though. Books by famous authors are flawed when there’s a typo; I thought my novel was a despicable creation that was an unforgivable injustice to the topic I’d tried to discuss. Sure, it was my first novel. Sure, I was working under a deadline no famous author would stand for. Sure, I was a twelve-year-old who wrote, edited, revised, and published a book over the course of my summer and the beginning of a school year in which I would later be in the top ten percent of my grade for the scores I made in the classes I had balanced with my novel’s work. When someone else’s work is flawed, you may be quick to judge, but you’re even quicker to assure them that their project is still as lovely as they had intended it to be. When you’re the one who needs assurance, though, you have no mercy to offer yourself. Even the mercy of others isn’t enough to slap you in the face and yell, “You are being the most ridiculous person in the world!”
     I was sitting on my mom’s bed, staring at the comforter because I was afraid of looking her in the eye, when I finally told someone else that I was wanting to take a shot at the whole bringing-justice-to-injustice idea. I remember her being quiet for a moment, but never unsupportive. She knew the only way I was going to stop beating myself up every time I looked at my debut novel was if I had a new one as a shield, one that could stand as a hero that would save me from feeling like I’d failed, because I should have realized what I had done with my first novel was important, and beautiful, and a feat most people will never accomplish. That’s just what it did. I was still hiding the reality of my health from others, but I’d met enough forced smiles from strangers who thought I was odd for choosing Wrong's topic that I didn’t care anymore. I wrote what I felt. What others felt. I let every heavy, horrible truth that I had unintentionally been holding onto flood the pages of my second novel. I only had two and a half months to write, edit, and revise this novel, and on top of that, it was one hundred pages longer than my first. The freedom I gave myself led to a better story, though. The characters were deeper. They were more realistic, especially in tying their actions and thoughts to their illnesses, and it made all their struggles and triumphs that much more profound. The plot had a path clear enough that I was able to check off of my key points and then some. Most of all, I adored what I had created.
     The day after my second book’s ceremony, I went to place my copy of book two on my dresser, right next to my first novel. As I looked from Wrong to The Commodious Life of Cecily Charn, I realized that my newer novel never could have existed without my first. Without the characters or plot of Wrong, my second creation never could have existed. Not only that, but I had to get over my stage fright before I could put on my best performance. Sure, I might still be anxious when someone tells me they’re reading my first novel. I might ramble on about how I love Wrong but I also kind of hated it for a while, the second is better, and silently plead with them not to judge me. 
     The fact is, though, I now see both my novels as trophies. Trophies that say I can call myself an author without people giving me a condescending smile and telling me my scattered writings must be great, and I’m sure be a real writer one day (all the while believing the term “author” means I’ve written a short story or two, and while it’s a fun hobby, I’ll grow up one day and realize I don’t want to, that I can’t, be a silly author). Medals that I can use when I feel as though I’m writing the most boring story to ever plague mankind. They’re awards I can use when I wonder if I have a right to be confident in my ability to understand the English language well, and even help others better understand it. I haven’t graduated. I’ve never gone to college and gotten a degree in English, teaching, or creative writing. These stories were proof that it didn’t matter. Even more than that, they were proof I didn’t need to hide who I was from everyone around me. 
     Whether people didn’t care or cared too much about what my mental health has been and always will be, how comfortable I am with myself and my life has no relation to those who don’t know the first thing about clinical depression, OCD, GAD, or tics. It’s only ever mattered how I view them. For all the pain they’ve caused, for all the inconvenience they’ve caused, for all the hopelessness and complications with other medical issues they’ve caused, I don’t know who I am without them. I don’t know what I’d be like, or what life would have been, without them. I do know that without them, I never would have written my first novel. Without my first novel, I never would have written my second. It’s a butterfly effect of ugly things turned beautiful, far more beautiful than I ever thought they had the potential to be. 

 

John 21: 20-24 (Or, In Other Words, Another Instance of How Relatable Peter Was).

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

     I was sitting at my small group table bright and early in the morning a few months ago when we read this passage. Have you ever had one of those times where you freeze like you've been caught in a spotlight? Where just like that, you can hear God's voice as though he's speaking right beside you? "I'm talking to you, just in case you missed that. You, right there, in the blue shirt." There's no way around it. There's no denying it, or convincing yourself it's just a coincidence. Since you've probably been doing all those things for a while now, it's a hard pill to swallow.

     I'm back in school now (cue the streamers and balloons), but that doesn't mean there haven't been some bumps in the road, especially concerning my health. I'm still pretty sick. So, most of the time, I feel lousy during the school day. It's been a struggle to make it through the required seven hours, which is why I'm completing half days next semester. I'll take two classes in school and two virtual classes at home. This schedule is just what my family was hoping for. We've been wanting me to go to the school I'm currently enrolled in for 10 years, and giving it up after a semester was less than perfect; we're so thankful we were able to find a way for me to keep attending traditional school, even if it isn't full-time. 

     Keeping this in mind, let's take a step back to a few months ago, before I'd accepted my limitations. The first few weeks of school, I was feeling better than usual. I was still struggling to make it through school days sometimes, but just being there was such a big deal for me! It makes sense if I was still struggling, though, and was adjusting to being back at school, clubs should be on the back burner. Simple, right? Not so much. At the beginning of the year, my school administration was pushing for student involvement in clubs. They preached about the vitality of clubs on college applications, and if the idea hadn't been in my head the year prior, it sure was last fall.

     I wasn't in any clubs my freshman year because, you guessed it, there isn't an easy way to form a club when you go to a virtual school where students are dispersed across the globe. I was stressed all year about missing out on the extracurriculars everyone was always talking about. Now that I was in a traditional school, I wanted to be in clubs for school spirit, to meet my new schoolmates and teachers, and have some extracurriculars for my college applications. At the beginning, I was planning on joining one club. To me, that was a compromise; I truly wanted to join two or three (at the very least). I went to informational meetings, signed up for email lists, and assured myself I'd be fine. I have just about the worst way of deciding limitations. To me, not being able to do something is only proved by actually attempting it. If I say I cannot do something based on the knowledge that it would be detrimental to me, I have a hard time accepting it without attempting it. It's been a necessary excogitation for me over the years; when you're always sick, you have to complete daily tasks just the same as if you were feeling well. That doesn't always make it the right philosophy, though.

     The week before the club I'd decided on really began to start meeting, I got sick(er). I felt absolutely terrible. I was very dizzy, incredibly tired (endometriosis causes chronic fatigue), and my mental health problems were horrible. I finally had to admit that it was unreasonable to be in any clubs. At first, it was rough. My friends were still in the club, and I was still on the email list, so I saw all the events I wasn't able to be a part of. It didn't help that people were still constantly talking about how important extracurriculars are when it comes to college. After a while, though, I was able to come to terms with my limitations.

     After the initial excitement of being involved in my school's activities, I'd realized it would be difficult to be in a club. I kept pushing for it, though, from the constant buzz around me. Clubs were the best way to meet my new classmates! Colleges wanted clubs, and they were crucial for most scholarships! I ignored the advice of my parents, common sense, and most importantly, God. Because while I was sitting at my small group table, reading John 21: 20-24, I could sense the lesson was hardly a coincidence. Peter was concerned with the paths of others and not his own path. Every time I'd discussed extracurriculars with my parents, I'd told them how much my school pushed for student involvement through clubs. Every time, my mom had told me she knew it must be hard to not join clubs when they were constantly brought up, but she'd also tell me joining clubs might not be my path. It might be some people's, or many's, paths, but that didn't make it mine. 

     It's not that I regret jumping headfirst into the fantastical idea of immersing myself in my school, even when it was looking more inimical than anything else. It's not a crime to aspire being involved in your school, listen to the advice of your school's advisors, or improve your chances of success with college admissions down the road. I didn't listen to the people who knew me best, though. I could have saved myself and my family a lot of time and energy if I'd listened to God and my parents, who actual know me, other than my school, which can only make suggestions for the majority of its students. God was trying to speak to me as I read John 21: 20-24, and I tried to ignore it. Just like Jesus told Peter, though, I shouldn't be concerned with the paths of others. I haven't been in any clubs, but I've published two books and have a blog. I play two instruments. Due to a sport requirement, I was on the bowling team this year. I hope to do more volunteer work, tutoring, and babysitting once I'm feeling better. I may not have a traditional college transcript, but I have to realize that's not necessarily a bad thing. 

Health Update

     I've wanted to write this post for a while now, but I've also been dreading it. I'm so glad I shared some of my health problems this time last year, and I'm immensely grateful for all the kind words I've received. Even so, it's been hard to give updates since then. There are some things I'll forget to mention and others I don't want to share. The whole story will never be written out, because there's no need for everything to be told. I still worry, though, about how much to share. For someone who's used to keeping many things private, it's a hard line to navigate. People are judgemental, and even the most calculated story can easily be misinterpreted. Apart from that, though, my story's not the one people desire. It's not one of fast recoveries; it's one that continually goes through ups and downs.

     Since my post about why I attended an online school for a year, I switched antidepressant medications. If this was a movie, the ominous, foreboding music would begin playing. This medicine was created in the 1960s. For those of you who don't know, modern antidepressant medicines have some pretty terrible possible side effects. Most people don't experience them at all or for long, but I tend to experience most of them. As you go back in time, possible side effects get worse. My family had been avoiding older medicines for as long as possible, but we'd run out of options and weren't ready to completely halt medication yet. 

     This medicine caused my heart rate to rapidly increase, which meant I was constantly burning a large amount of calories. At the same time, the combination of severe stomach pain from birth control, anxiety, and many other sources caused me to stop eating. I lost a large amount of weight over the next few months, but the bloating from birth control was so severe I didn't realize the full extent of it until I was weighed. After a couple of EKGs and concerned doctor's appointments, I weaned off the antidepressant medication I had been on. I also stopped the birth control I had been on, as it made my endometriosis worse instead of better. From there, though, the weight kept dropping.

     I began having strict caloric requirements and times I had to eat. I cannot stress how painful this was. I had to go from eating a piece of peanut butter toast a day to eating six or more times daily overnight. No matter how upset or full my stomach was, I had to eat on the designated snack times. I was also asked to start eating dairy and gluten again at this time to broaden high-calorie options. While I wouldn't eat gluten, I did begin eating dairy again. Food allergens have always been tricky for me; dairy won't always cause me stomach pain, but it commonly does. This caused additional issues with eating until it was again taken from my diet.

     The weight kept dropping, but it was more gradual. It finally stabilized, and it remained that way for a bit. I'd been religiously eating for a couple months, though, and it was exhausting. I was always in pain, and my family and I hated the routine. My family went to the beach on spring break, and I was sick the entire time. We decided to let the calorie tracking fade away for a week, but it never really came back. I was eating at least three meals and a snack every day, but the weight began trickling down again. Between last October or November and just a couple months ago I lost over 30 pounds, and I hadn't been overweight or near it to begin with. 

     My endometriosis got better during this time, but that was just about the only pro. I'd lost a dangerous amount of weight, and the results were that my body didn't have the nutrients it needed. A couple months ago, my family found out I'm borderline anemic, and that things needed to go back to the way they had been last winter and spring. For a while, I was eating three meals a day and about four snacks; I was constantly sick and incredibly distraught over this (necessary) arrangement. After constantly having to eat last winter, I had a poor relationship with food in terms of how I regarded it. I hated that I didn't have control over what I ate, how much of it I had, or when I wanted to snack on something. I still don't have a fantastic relationship with food, but I have days where I am okay with the way things have to be. I don't think there's any way to look at eating the way I did when I hardly gave it a thought. There was a time I didn't have to choose junk food over fruit; I didn't constantly feel nauseous and drowsy from unhealthy foods. I could turn down an evening snack if I wasn't hungry. I was free to eat a second helping of dinner if I was still hungry, and my stomach wasn't in incredible pain from being so full. The weight gain process has been going on for many painful months now, and it has taken a strong toll on me emotionally. However, I'm very thankful my family has been figuring out ways to ease the process. For example, I wasn't allowed to exercise for a long time. As someone who loves exercising, this was very upsetting. As well, having to eat at least six times a day without doing anything to stimulate an appetite was difficult. While I'm still not allowed to do extensive exercise, I am allowed to do things like walk on the treadmill for ten to fifteen minutes a day. My family has also been trying to rotate through dense, high calorie foods, which helps immensely. Trail mix, smoothies, and bars have become my best friends.

     Over the past few months, the pain I experience from endometriosis has returned. So little is known about endometriosis that the only treatments are birth control and surgery. Birth control failed miserably, and surgery has been very strongly advised against. The sooner I begin having surgeries, the more often I'll likely have to have them. For obvious reasons, as well as the fact that endometriosis flourishes on scar tissue, this isn't something my family and I want to rush into. We also didn't want to rush into another antidepression medication after the horrible results of my last one. In February or March, however, we began a new medicine. We increased it until August, when we finally began weaning off of it due to (surprise!) its little effect. 

     For better or for worse, all my time and energy has been put into school. I have not missed a single day this year despite being very sick many days, which is a vast accomplishment for me. While my three months at school have always coincided with many health problems, these issues have increased over the past month. It's frankly been torture to attend school every day. I wish I could simply go to school and enjoy it. I wish I could attend school with no problems other than the annoyance of homework, dress code, or unfavorable classes, but that has never been and never will be the case for me. I'm often in pain from endometriosis, exhausted from the chronic fatigue it causes. and struggling with my mental health issues (which cause many problems with my physical health).

     There aren't many improvements in anything to report. I've gained a few pounds, but my doctors aren't satisfied with the slow progress, and there is still a long ways to go. As for my personal life, there isn't much positivity to spread. I haven't been able to do any of the tasks I enjoy, such as writing or playing instruments, hence such a long absence online even though I've hesitantly returned to social media. I finished the (very) rough draft of a new novel at the beginning of fall break in October, but I haven't been able to edit it at all. I've only read one novel that wasn't required by school in at least a year. 

     The thing I've missed the most is spending time with my family. I come home and work until bedtime or later, so there isn't any time to spend with them. As someone who is rarely away from home, this has been hard. This week and the past one, though, I've had some room to breathe. I'm currently on Thanksgiving break, and while I'm surrounded by piles of homework, I also have plenty of free time. I'm enjoying some time with family, much-needed rest, and getting to finish this post (which, full disclaimer, I may or may not have started back in August).

     My doctors and family don't know what the next step in attempting to improve my health is, but it's something we're used to. For now, life goes on a day at a time. What keeps my family and me going is our faith. One of my mom's favorite Bible verses is Romans 12:12. It says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." I won't lie and say that I always go to God first when things are rough. I won't tell you I constantly pray. I won't tell you that my faith takes away all the pain. Even when I am being stubborn, though, it provides constant support. I constantly feel God's love, even when I don't show love to Him. He gives comfort in the midst of the worst days. He makes the unbearable bearable.

"Keyboard"

     I'm taking Creative Writing in school this semester. Since class began, we've covered everything from personal narratives to tall tales to, finally, poetry. We read a variety of poetry, and then came the writing assignments.

     I remembered the file hiding on my computer with poems I've written before, and I was curious to read them after nearly forgetting they existed. I found a piece called "Keyboard," and I went back through and made a few minor edits to it. I don't usually share my narrative writing on this blog. Rather, it's personal writing. I've certainly never shared poetry. There's a first time for everything, though, and I happened to be quite proud of this poem when I stumbled upon it last week. So, without further ado, here's "Keyboard."

When I type, nothing is impossible.
When I type, despair turns into hope.
When I type, I start off slow, crawling along,
But I never give up.
The crawling turns to a slow walk, and then, suddenly,
I’m running. 
My fingers are flying across the keyboard, reminding me of spiders.
Whether it’s the speed or the fact that I’m building a web of words,
I’m not sure. All I know is that it makes me feel like me.
It makes me feel strong, and alive, and inventive; 
It makes me feel confident in what I am capable of.
I don’t always have the right words. I rarely start off knowing what to say.
But as I begin to reconnect with the keyboard, 
And my thoughts, 
And my crudely concealed creativity, 
I am able to find those words.
I dig them from the depths of me, where they were placed lovingly
Before I even knew what the words themselves meant.
I find them, dust them off. 
I kiss them, place them on the page. 
I send my heart out into the world for everyone to see.
My little web grows and grows and grows.
And when a new day comes, and my fingers begin slowly, 
It serves as a reminder. A reminder that
what is hard now will come easy with time,
when the words are uncovered.
And so I begin a new web, a new story, and give up more and more of my heart.
Why do I do so? It isn’t easy. 
No, it hurts. It makes my mind want to shut itself off, 
Prevent me from ever sharing its ideas again.
But I continue on, because writing is in my programing. 
Writing was given to me as a gift, my great purpose in this life.
It was given to me in a way that I need it like air.
And so I begin again, typing out my heart, 
Because it is the only thing keeping me alive.

New School

     Those of you who saw my last blog post know I started a new school this year. As in a brick-and-mortar school, with teachers you don't Skype and students you can see (and almost run into because you're a clutz). I'm incredibly happy to announce that I'm just that- happy. I'm loving my new school so far. It's completely different from any school I've gone to before, from the students (so much politics. And puns. Plus, the popularity of YouTube videos and the love of frisbee) to the building itself (thin curtains separate classes. On a positive note, you can learn from three lectures at once!). I'm enjoying it, though, and that's all that matters. 

     My new school is a lot smaller than my old one. You're mostly with the same people all day, which makes it really easily to learn new names and get to know people. Everyone's been really nice, and I was lucky to find a group of people I spend most of my time with. There's always something interesting (more accurately, entertaining) going on; I've even started a list of quotes by students. There are downsides to a smaller school, like not having the same course options as a larger school, but so far the pros have been outweighing the cons.

     Sure, I miss some things about online school. During the school day, though, they don't pass through my mind. I'm thinking about my next class, the conversation I just had, the assignment that's due soon, and a million other ideas. On Friday, I had a conversation that's stuck with me. As I was talking with some of my new friends, we started talking about enjoying childhood vs. wanting to jump to a few years from now. For as long as I can remember, I've spent far too much energy trying to get myself to enjoy the time of life I'm in. I hate to use the phrase "most kids," because no one is the same. Many of the people around me, though, have always had different thoughts from me. It manifests in a lot of different ways, like while my classmates have typically loved days we do nothing in class, they make me incredibly anxious over the thought of wasted time. 

     Some people really enjoy a laid-back childhood with the focus being on as little responsibilities as possible and lots of time with friends. I've never been able to shut my mind off from thinking of things beyond the here-and-now, or to be content with just being a student. That's simply how I am, though. Mathew 6:34 says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Because of this verse, I try my best to change my thoughts. However, on not being the same as some of my peers, why should I fight it? Striving to think of life one day at a time is one thing. Not naturally being able to relax enough to coast until I turn 18, though, isn't isn't a bad thing, especially when I think of all I've been able to accomplish in 15 years.  

     It's not that I don't love being the age I am, but rather struggling with feeling like being a student is enough. Since this school year, I've hardly worked on the novel I've put over 110,00 words into. Yesterday was the first day in over a month I've picked up one of my instruments. I haven't read very much. These are the things that will matter in the long run, but they're things I don't have any time for during school. I struggle with that, because these have always been the things that obsess over accomplishing. However, although it's bothered me sometimes, I've been alright with simply being a student so far this year. My mom always reminds me that just because I let go of those hobbies now doesn't mean they're gone forever. It's just about the role I currently need to play. 

     In this first month of school, I've been so excited that my health hasn't been too invasive. I'm exhausted most of the time. My endometriosis was acting up the first week of school, and has been acting up this past week. I've had a lot of new health developments since my post on why I did an online school for a year, and while some are good, others are just about as negative as you can get. All of these have had effects on the past month, but none of them have been nearly as bad as they were this time last year. I've been able to get through my schooldays just like anyone else would. I've only been at school five weeks, but I'm thrilled to see where this school year takes me. And who knows? Maybe I'll finally find a balance between being a student and being myself. 

Summer's End

All summer I saw the start of school as a date far, far, off in the distance. I did everything in my power to put on a filter that made the first day of school, the end of summer, as far away as I could. Don't get me wrong; I'm incredibly excited to begin school, but with that excitement comes incredible anxiety. I never forgot about summer's impending end, but I still couldn't believe it when I went to date an entry in my prayer journal and realized that it was the end of July. It was as if a fast-forward switch had been activated. 

     I hate change, which is ridiculous, because everything changes. Nothing ever stays the same, not even for a second. That doesn't stop me from clinging to the past, though, even when it wasn't always positive. This fall I'm going back to school; a traditional, brick-and-mortar school. I'm thrilled to meet new people and start a new academic year, but that doesn't mean I'm completely ready for the school year to roll around. I spent a year away from school. I'm going to a new school with a few familiar faces and a lot of unfamiliar ones. I didn't get all the classes I wanted. My health is still rocky. I really enjoyed spending my days at home, even if I missed a lot of the aspects of a traditional school. 

     Change is scary, but change is good. The timing of my acceptance to my new school was perfect from the perspective of time; we had months to get everything together and finish my old school. It wasn't, and isn't, crystal clear from a health perspective. What my family knows, though, is that it wasn't just luck. My family has been praying for a great school forever, but especially since I actually began school and we realized that it wasn't fun, or challenging, or exciting, or any of the other things you wish school would be. We've been praying for 10 years that I might end up at the school I'll be starting in less than a week. We prayed for what to do for my 10th grade year all throughout our time at my old online school. Then, that dream school became more than just a hope. 

     For all the moments of crying with happiness, there've been tears. For all the time I've spent eagerly talking about school with my mom, we've worked through the anxious thoughts that wrap themselves around the joy and don't budge. I'm right where I'm supposed to be this year; there's no doubt about that. However, that doesn't mean there isn't doubt. That's alright, though, because there's an entire year to have those doubts dissolve. Time was moving too fast a week ago, but now it's moving too slow for an anxious mind. Until school starts, I'll be a wreck. My family will be a wreck. The bulk of the worries won't go away until I've started my new routine; the other ones will take a little more time, and some will never leave. For now, though, I'm just trying to enjoy the last few days of summer, keep my mind on the present, and trust God.

 

Technology for Writers

I'm not going to lie, I almost titled this post "Apps for Writers" because it sounded more catchy. My inability to incorrectly label this post, though, made me go with the word "technology" even if it isn't as attention-grabbing. Of course, anyone can write at almost any time. Only having a pencil and paper aren't excuses to stop working; in fact, sometimes going back to the basics can help. If there's anything that can make writing easier, though, why not use it if you have the opportunity? 

     The first thing I'd like to recommend authors get is Evernote. It's an app and a website, so you can access it from wherever. You can have all different notebooks within it for everything from grocery lists to plot twists. The best part, though, is that everything you write is stored in Evernote, which means you can access it from any device with Internet or the app. Plus, it's free. Score!

     The second thing I'd like to recommend are baby naming websites or apps. If someone saw my search history, it would be a mess thanks to writing research. I've googled all sorts of things that would make me look like I was planning a crime, and I've visited more baby naming sites than some people who are actually expecting. The sites can come in handy, though, when you're searching for just the right character name. A lot of the time, I'll have a letter in mind, but nothing else. On the Internet, though, I can just search for names starting with that letter and get all results I could ever need! You can also research whether a potential name is popular (or when it was popular), its meaning, and its origins.   

     The third thing I'm going to recommend was suggested to me by my dad (hi Dad!). It's called Scrivener, and it's incredibly useful. It has templets for all sorts of fiction and nonfiction documents, and can store everything for whatever you're working on in one place, but in a way that it's organized. That means you can go between all your notes, background information, chapters, excerpts and anything else for your project with ease! You can leave notes for yourself to find later, and there are even helpful templates where you can answer questions about your characters or write information on places in your story. While this is a really cool tool, I wouldn't recommend it to a beginning writer, because it does cost money. I wrote two novels in Pages, and they turned out fine. I love using a new program this time, though!

     My final suggestion is Pinterest. It's known for overflowing with recipes and crafts, but it's also a great tool for a writer (as long as you don't get sidetracked by it!). You can find more story prompts than you'll ever need, advice on writing all sorts of scenes, and knowledge on different situations your character encounters that you haven't to give your story more accuracy. There are tons of tips from authors or bloggers on how to begin writing, editing and revising, and how to figure out what to do once your novel is actually complete.

     Pinterest is also great for when you're lacking inspiration. You can look at architecture, and even look at buildings from a certain part of the world, as a reference. You could find pictures of people that look like your characters or find outfits you could see your protagonist wearing. There are also just beautiful photographs waiting for you to stumble upon; the kind that make you want to get up and write an entire novel at once, run a marathon, or travel the world. That kind of motivation alone can get you through the first 15,000 words. As for the writing slump that inevitably follows, that's a bit harder to tackle. Who knows; maybe I'll have to post about how to tackle that issue someday. 

Yoga

Something I've recently learned about myself is that I love yoga. Do I find it really fun? Yes. Am I good at it? No. That doesn't stop me from practicing, however. I began doing yoga a couple months ago, but it wasn't until recently I found a routine I really like. 

     Yoga, meditation, and God are all things that can be really calming. A lot of doctors recommend meditation for mental health, and yoga is often prescribed for people who might want to stay active but aren't able to do higher intensity workouts. The first time I tried yoga, it was horrible. I hated the pace, despised the moves, and felt worse when I'd finished than when I'd begun. With a change in environment, moves, and teacher, I found out that yoga could be really awesome. 

     I tie my yoga routine in with my faith. I read a Bible verse before I start doing yoga, and use that verse to count how long I hold each pose. If the verse is long, I might only repeat it to myself once before changing poses. If it's short, I might run through it a couple of times. I usually use a routine that I was taught during a class, but there are so many ways to find yoga moves you like! You can find routines to start your day or end it, calm you down or wake you up, and help you get stronger or work on your flexibility. Pinterest is brimming with pre-made routines, and YouTube has some great videos to demonstrate the moves. However, I really recommend seeing an instructor if you can. A tiny mistake in performing a move can cause stress on your joints, so it's best to learn the right way.

     At the end of my yoga routines I like to pray and meditate (in that order). Meditation is a really great way to calm your mind, but it can be rough to know how to start. I really recommend downloading Headspace, or visiting them online. There's a free course called "Take 10" that will lead you through how to meditate, and give you the skills to eventually do it on your own. Once you realize how simple and relaxing meditation is, it'll easily become a new part of your routine. With yoga moves for people of all different goals and fitness levels, it's just as easy to get hooked on. 

Fiddles

You can't always change your circumstances, but you can usually help them. I've been dealing with mental health challenges my entire life, which means I've come up with a few coping mechanisms that really help me. I've seen these things help other people as well, and I'm hoping that they can come to an even greater use if I post them online. 

    When you're anxious, sometimes it can help to have your hands moving. This is where fiddles come in. Fiddles are just objects that keep your hands busy, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Tangles are these things that you can twist. They come in all different sizes and textures, so there's one for everyone. Usually they are fairly small, about the size of your hand when uncurled and in a rough circle, but giant ones are also available. I'd recommend following the link I've provided and looking at the Tangles, or trying to find a video on them.

     Other fiddles could be something simple, like a stress ball. You could buy pipe cleaners and pull the fuzz from them. Of course, none of those things are very convenient when you're in public. That's where jewelry fiddles are great. They look just like regular rings, bracelets, or necklaces, but you can spin or twist them when you're anxious. 

     I realize that all of this is hard to visualize. What does a fiddle ring look like?! So, I've created a Pinterest board where you can see example of some of the different fiddles I've mentioned today. If you have any other questions, though, please feel free to leave a comment here or on Pinterest. If you find anything in this post helpful, stay tuned for future posts, because I plan on making more with similar themes. No one struggling with mental illness should have to feel alone, or struggle more than they have to. 

Bible Verses for Anxiety and Uncertainties

     Anxiety is something that everyone deals with. Some people deal with it mildly, while others face how debilitating it can be. No matter what kind of anxiety you face, though, I think there are some really good Bible verses that would benefit everyone to know. These are only a handful of the many, many verses God gives us about how to handle and address our fears! This won't be a long post; I won't be commenting on the verses, because sometimes it's best to understand them on your own and not associate them with anything other than God. This is just a resource for anyone struggling with worries and uncertainties (which, let's face it, is all of us). 

  • 1 Peter 5:7- Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. (NLT)
  • Jeremiah 20:11- But the Lord is with me like an awe-inspiring warrior. (NET)
  • Mathew 6:25- So I tell you, don’t worry about the things you need to live—what you will eat, drink, or wear. Life is more important than food, and the body is more important than what you put on it. (ERV)
  • Jeremiah 29:11- I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope. (GW)
  • Psalm 37:5- Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (ESV)
  • 2 Timothy 1:7- For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. (HCSB)
  • Luke 1:37- For with God nothing shall be impossible. (KJV)
  • Job 5:9- He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. (NIV)
  • Exodus 14:14- The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. (NIV)
  • Romans 5:3 and 4- Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. (NET)
  • Psalm 94:19- Whenever I am anxious and worried, You comfort me and make me glad. (GNT)
  • Romans 8:18- For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed to us. (NET)
  • Romans 12:12- Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)
  • Philippians 4:6 and 7- Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (NET)

Writing Struggle

     I'm not going to sugarcoat it, or beat around the bush. I've had a lot of trouble writing lately. For at least four months, I hardly wrote a word. I was preoccupied with a demanding school year and unmotivated by a lack of inspiration and a rough patch in my health. I couldn't work on my newest story. My usual tactic of making myself write, even if I don't like the way it's being written, just wasn't working; I couldn't even construct the most basic rough draft. 

     What I found I could do, though, was write poetry. At first, it made me feel productive. It even made me happy sometimes. I was writing, and that was something. After a while, though, I started to feel guilty. Why couldn't I write a book? Surely I just wasn't putting in enough effort. I didn't have enough skill. What I was doing with poetry stopped being productive enough for me. 

     That was the professional author in me talking. That was the part of me that makes writing a job, or a chore, instead of what it usually starts out as: a hobby. The was the part of me that has greatly known strict deadlines and large word counts. 

     The part of me that writes because I love to create stories had to snap me out of my thinking. I'm still a teenager. I don't have to write a certain type of literature to pay bills; the only reason I have to write is because it makes me happy. If that means I take a few months to write poetry, or blog posts, or short stories, so be it. If I can write a novel, that's fine too. If writing is causing me a lot of harm, though, it's okay to take a step back and return when I'm in a better place. I couldn't come to terms with this, and spent the time away from creating characters full of unnecessary shame and guilt. 

     For the last few weeks, I have been writing more. It started as writing 300 words one day; it was hardly anything, but it made me excited. Then I began writing more each day, and some days I even reach the daily word counts that I used to strive for. I feel joy at any progress in my story, whether it's a paragraph, and page, or a chapter. That joy is why I started writing, and I'm thrilled to have it back. I also know, though, that it's okay if I'm not spending every spare moment working on a novel. It's alright if my schedule has changed since I wrote my first two books, and I need to change how and when I write because of it. What matters is writing because it makes me smile, not because I feel it's an obligation. 

Favorite Bible Verses

I'm the kind of person who's open about her faith. If you've read my first book, Wrong, you probably remember the religious aspects of it. More often than not, you'll find me wearing the cross necklace I got when I was baptized. More than any of those things, though, my goal is for people to be able to tell I'm a Christian without having to see or read it somewhere. 

     The other week I was getting to know some of my classmates. I was filling out one of those questionnaires that help share a little bit about who you are when I saw the question. "Favorite bible verse?" it asked. For me, the answer has always been simple; for as long as I can remember, I've had the same favorite verse. 1 Peter 5:7- give all your worries to Him, for He cares for you- has always spoken volumes to me with my anxiety and OCD. However, over the past few months, I've been strongly drawn to a few other verses as well. I felt guilty, though; almost as though I was betraying "my" verse. 

     The thought of changing the verse I called my favorite seemed impossible. I'd wonder if I would even really want to. Part of me was afraid of losing the verse I'd identified with for most of my (admittedly short) life. The other part of me was afraid that I'd say the same verse was my most-liked one forever.

     I had a thought: why was I stressing so much about picking a favorite verse? We pick favorite verses to share a bit of our faith with people. Other than that, it doesn't mean anything. God never says, "Hey, I really need everyone to choose one verse to be their favorite." We're never told that we have a limit on how many verses we can be really fond of. There's no real reason we can't love a lot of verses, or have favorites instead of a favorite.

     So if someone came up to me within the next hour and asked what my favorite verse was, I'd tell them it was 1 Peter 5:7. While that still means a lot to me, and shows a lot about me, it isn't the only verse I really like anymore. To me, that just shows how my faith has grown. The more I learn about God's word, the more stories, verses, and passages I'll find that resonate with me, and that's incredibly exciting. 

Social Media Hiatus

I haven't been on Instagram or Twitter since December 18, 2015. Maybe you've noticed that you haven't gotten any updates from my personal account or the one for this blog. Or, you're reading this and going, "You know, now that I think about it..." Either way, I promise it doesn't hurt my feelings. On my social media accounts, I've always been someone who looks at my feed more than I contribute to others'. That's why I know that a lot of people might not have realized I haven't been on social media. Nevertheless, I really wanted to talk about why I've been off of Twitter and Instagram, what it has been like, and if I'm planning on going back.

     Why did I go off of Instagram and Twitter? Trust me, it wasn't, and hasn't, been easy. Being off these sites means there's a disconnect. Think of all the things you learn when you check your Twitter or Instagram feed throughout the day. Depending on who you are and who you follow, you could hear about anything from a funny moment at school to the name of someone's newborn. Being off of these sites means that I'll be in a group of people and be the only one that doesn't know what they're talking about. It's happened before, and I know it will happen again. 

     It's also hard to do because Instagram and Twitter can be addicting. When you first start an account, you just occasionally scroll through your feed. As you start to understand it more, and follow more people, you spend more time on it. Then, BAM. You spend hours on that one site every single day. Going off of social media was a good way to get away from that obsession, but it wasn't the reason for it.

     If I'm being honest, the reason for my absence on social media has to do with being at an online school. Seeing all my friends in class, laughing at the class clown, meeting up between classes, or screaming out support at a pep rally or football game made me really upset sometimes. I was really happy for the people in the pictures, because even if just for a moment, they were having a fun moment at school. I felt sad, though, because I wanted to be there. I wanted to sit in the student section at a football game. I wanted to go into hysterics over one word that related to last week's history lesson. I wanted to be able to go home from school and have a hilarious story to share.

     I started logging off of Instagram, so that I would have to re-enter my username and password whenever I went on so that I couldn't just mindlessly scroll through my feed in a free moment. I was still feeling down, though, so I decided to delete the app off my phone entirely. Then, almost without thinking, I deleted Twitter, too. I didn't have a Snapchat or Facebook; I did have a Pinterest. That stayed on my phone, but I didn't use it until January. I kept Pinterest because I have a couple of food allergies, and it can be really helpful. 

     What's it been like? Just like I said earlier, there have been a lot of moments where I have no idea what friends are talking about. Other things have been great, though. Overall, I've spent less time on social media. This is great, because my schooling needs a lot of time. Checking your phone just a few moments every once in a while can really add up. I'll be the first to admit that the past few weeks, I've been spending more time on Pinterest. Realizing that, though, and also noticing that I'm not happy with that use of my time, means that I'm slowly opening the app less and less. 

     The goal I had when I went off these sites in the first place has been achieved. That doesn't mean I don't still feel sad about school sometimes, or that it isn't bittersweet looking at a picture sent by a friend. It does mean that it's on my mind less, though, and that's enough. I went to public school my entire schooling career up until this year. It is, and will continue to be, an adjustment in many ways. If I can do something to help with the harder parts of this adjustment, though, why wouldn't I?

     Finally, we've gotten to the big question... Am I going to go back on social media? Yes. Anytime soon? I wouldn't count on it. I may miss the occasional tweet, or wonder about what someone's been up to. I've decided that if they aren't a big enough part of my life that I don't find out how they are elsewhere, though, it just isn't important enough. As for missing a funny or popular post, those are things I can live without as well. 

     I considered going back on Instagram, just once, to post about this blog update. I've decided against it, though. Having people take time out of their day to read what I have to say is really nice. It's not the most important thing, though. What's more important is that I like what I post, or find it important. So weighing the pros and cons, there were more cons to alerting people about this blog post on Instagram. 

     So maybe you'll stumble upon this post by accident. Maybe you'll see it if I ever go back on social media, and I tell you about a future blog update. Either way, it doesn't matter. I'm glad to have you as a reader, and even more glad that I'm putting myself before my writing's popularity. :)

Why I Homeschool

I started kindergarten with a batch of kids, and I stayed with them until 8th grade. New people came, and others left, but I was still with the same group of people almost every day since I was 5. Last fall, though, they all went off to high school, and I didn't go with them. I've been doing online school for the past semester, and today I wanted to finally talk about why we made the decision to go that route. 

I've never exactly had the best health. I can pull countless examples of having to miss school, or playdates. I'm sure I've had more doctors appointments than some people have in their entire lives. Thankfully, God gave my family good friends in the medical field, which has been such a huge blessing. I was never able to be completely 'normal,' but with great doctors and a lot of faith, I was doing okay. Then, very early in my 7th grade year, all of that changed.

In 7th grade, my health started getting worse and worse. I had been on a medicine for years, which we did not take lightly. We had tried all other options beforehand, and even had a plan to try and wean off of it in a few years. Overnight, though, the medicine that had been working for years stopped, and I was left with the crippling feeling of nothing. No happiness, no sadness, no anger, no nothing. Every once and a while I would be able to feel, but only sadness and the lack of hope. It was like I was walking in fog; everything was terribly blurred. It seemed like everything was reaching me with a filter that was keeping its beauty from me. 

The first part of my story is about mental health. I have clinical depression, OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and tics. All of these things, spare tics, I was born with. Clinical depression is not brought on by anything, unlike circumstantial depression. I don't feel it all of the time, but it is always there. Even if I were to wake up tomorrow and never feel the mental and physical pain that it brings again, I would still have depression.

I always describe Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a smorgasbord of all the different anxiety disorders. It isn't specific, like social anxiety, or separation anxiety. It encompasses a lot of things, more than I could ever name. 

My number one pet peeve is when people misuse the term 'OCD.' OCD is NOT wanting to keep a semi-organized room or workspace. It is NOT keeping books straight on a desk at school, or wanting pretty handwriting. OCD is being unable to leave the house for days out of fear of the oven catching it on fire, even if you haven't used your oven in weeks. It's going without sleep night after night because even though you have checked dozens of times, you're paralyzed with fear at the thought of the door's lock being turned too much one way or the other. 

Tics are movements that you do that you can't control. They can be verbal or locomotive; I have the latter. They come and go, which means you could have no tics for a while, and then a lot for a bit. You could have all sorts of tics, or just a few. Just a few examples of tics would be wiggling your nose (Bewitched style), eye blinking, or having to shrug your shoulders.  

So, back to 7th grade. My depression was back and worse than ever. My anxiety, which had never really gone away, got worse. It made, makes, and probably always will make me be afraid of being away from home too long, afraid of going out with even my closest friends, and so many other things. Recently it's taken on a more social anxiety twist as well. My OCD was luckily staying under control, as it had been really bad a few years prior. My tics were becoming very frequent, only the main ones couldn't be seen. I had, and still have, a tic in my stomach that causes my ribs to get bruised to the point where I wear a brace.

We tried a few different approaches with our regular doctor, but nothing was working, not even a bit. At that point we were transferred to the main doctor for my problems at Vanderbilt. We embarked on a few months-long journey of going back to counselors (I had gone to one in 3rd grade) and trying every single medicine that she could offer. Nothing worked; not only that, but they all made the problem worse. My body needs a certain amount of anti-depression, anxiety, and OCD medicine, but I cannot even handle a very small amount. So for every medicine we tried, which there were a lot of, I got nearly every side effect that the medicines can cause. It isn't uncommon for people to get a few side effects, but it is to get almost all of them. As well, many times the symptoms go away after a few weeks; that wasn't the case for me, though.

I was shaky, dizzy, lightheaded, had very extreme fatigue (as in falling asleep sitting up, no matter how many hours I had slept the night, or even minutes, before), and many other things. I would almost pass out in stores, and I could hardly walk at times. The doctor at Vanderbilt had exhausted all options, and told us so. That day was one of the worst of my life, as my family stood out in the parking lot wondering what we were going to do next.

We continued trying different treatment options, but I was still very sick from the side effects. It took all my efforts just to make it through a day of school, or even half of a day. At this point it was my 8th grade year. Instead of getting better, things were getting worse. My mental health was still struggling, and so was my physical health from medicinal side effects and the strain that depression puts on your body (such as constant pain, and a weaker pain tolerance). My physical health continued to decrease, though. My stomach had always had problems, less-severe ones being a few allergies to foods, but over the years they had worsened. My stomach was in pain twenty-four-seven, no matter what. It hurt to eat, to move, to even just sit still, all day every day. No one could figure out what was causing the pain, or how to stop it.

My family came to terms with how sick I was, and that there was no way I could attend school the next year. My mom began searching for an online school, and finally found one after months of searching. We decided to enroll, and regular high school was suddenly out of the picture.

After a doctor's appointment one day, I was sent to have a cat scan out of fear that I had appendicitis, or that something else was wrong. We weren't sure what we were missing, as the pain was constant and so severe. They found an ovarian cyst, and they realized that I get reoccurring cysts. As soon as one goes away, another forms. They suspected I might have endometriosis, but the only way to diagnose it is through surgery. 

Being out of school was good for our schedule, and for me, as I can have things like heating pads while I work, but it also messed (and continues to) with my mental health even more. It caused/causes me to get very depressed about not being able to go to school, see friends, and just enjoy school like everyone around me was. When going out in public, my anxiety and and tics would be off the charts. My OCD started coming back in small ways, such as having to stop and straighten all of the plates in Target. I was constantly exhausted, but I wasn't able to sleep. I had a few weeks where I wasn't able to walk, or even sit up; I had to lie down constantly. I developed horrible brain fog that prevented me from working, reading, writing, or even being able to understand what my parents were saying to me at times.

As well, my stomach problems were getting worse. The pain was still a daily thing, and the prolonged depression was making it hard to cope with the pain. We met with a doctor who specializes in cysts and endometriosis in teens, and started on treatment. The treatment didn't help the pain at all; in fact, the pain got a lot worse. I was also getting even more side effects, like more dizziness and bloating.

So, where am I today? We still haven't found an effective treatment for any of my medical problems. I still have very severe side effects from the depression medicines. I still have all of the ones I mentioned earlier, but I have new ones, too, such as overall increased stomach pain and pain when I eat. The treatment for the cysts are effecting my mental health as well. The pain and bloating have caused my depression and self-esteem to go even more downhill, unfortunately. I still have the constant pain, and the cysts are still forming. If school wasn't an option starting my 9th grade year, then it's absolutely positively not possible now. 

My family and I have had good and bad reactions when telling people the truth about our situation and my health in the past, which is why we haven't talked about it much. Now, though, I feel is the right time to finally share my story and my health problems. Not telling those closest to me has been a challenge that I'm ready to diminish.

If anyone has questions, don't be afraid to ask them. If anyone feels someone might be benefited by reading this blog post, then please share it. Posting this should be one of the scariest things I've ever done, but I have such a peace about it. Not having to beat around the bush when talking about anything concerning my health is going to be such a relief for my entire family. I'm also hoping that by this being posted, I can maybe help someone else in similar circumstances. I would appreciate prayers by anyone, and I would love to be able to pray for anyone else who might be going through a hard time as well.

I'm an author; the easiest way for me to speak is through not speaking at all. That's how this came about; a blog post instead of repeating my story over and over, trying to remember all of the details for each telling of it. That doesn't mean that this post is perfect. I'm sure I'll look back and think of things I should have mentioned, or see places that I should have cleared certain things up. It is the perfect way for my story to be told, though, and that's the only kind of perfection it needs to have.

 

 

Blogging vs. Vlogging

If you clicked on this article because the 'vs.' in the title gave you hope for an epic battle, then I'm sorry to disappoint- there won't be any dramatic fights here today. The 'vs.' is for a comparison in this case. Today I'm going to talk about blogging, vlogging, and why I'm a blogger. 

     Blogging and vlogging have the same goal, which is to discuss topics that are important to a person, or to share things from someone's life. The difference is that while blogging is written out, vlogging is a video version. I could be sitting in front of my camera right now, saying all of these things instead of talking, and this blog would turn into a vlog.

     Some people like to watch vlogs because they think that they can get more emotion out of them, prefer watching over reading, etc. They could like making them because they like to experiment with different lighting, angles, or effects. They could also feel like they're better at expressing their thoughts when they're speaking. They could have a weak spot in all things Language Arts when it comes to writing, and don't want that to hold them back.

     Some people like blogs more because they would rather read, think that they can get the same amount of information in a shorter amount of time, etc. They could like making them more because they feel like they're better at getting their point across through words. Maybe they're self conscious about their voice or look, and feel more comfortable getting their thoughts across through words. They could also lack access to a camera or a good environment to film.

     Whichever you prefer, it's entirely your choice, and there are plenty of bloggers AND vloggers who feel the same way that you do. Personally, I'm a blogger. I've considered vlogging, mostly because of all of the vloggers that I love to watch. I'm just more of a writer, though, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. For me, blogging is the best choice. As I get more and more comfortable with putting my thoughts online, I'll begin to contribute my part to the blogging community entry by entry. 

     If you want, feel free to share which you like more and why; I'd love to hear from you!