speak of the devil

Jumping off my post before last, back to epilepsy!

December 8, I was working on one of my two papers due for the end of the semester.  I was stressed, worried about graduation the coming Saturday the 12th, and about the paper.  I had a paper due the next day as well — both of which were to be 15-20 pages — so as you can imagine my mental state wasn’t the best.

Around 10:30pm I had a seizure.  Of course, I didn’t know anything until I woke up to my mom telling me I’d had one, and making sure I was okay.  Again, we searched for my glasses and once they turned up and I rested for a few minutes, I resumed my paper, determined to finish by the midnight deadline.

I finished it just before midnight (but at what cost?), and god only knows how it ended.  I only made it to 14? maybe? pages, and I haven’t read it since.  I emailed my professor the following day and explained why the ending might suck.  She commented that it did end a little “unceremoniously” but not in a bad way — I still ended up with an A in the class, so it must not have been too terrible.  At least the first twelve pages of the paper made sense.

You’d think that’s it, but…

Later that night, around 2, I had another seizure.  I was still awake at that time, which was surprising given the postictal state is usually one of heavy sleep.  I woke up breathing extremely hard and practically on my stomach, and I remember mumbling to Mom (who had come in again) that I was tired of being woken up to hear I had a seizure.

She decided to take me to the emergency room after the second one (because it was previously unheard of for me to have more than one in one day), and everything checked out fine.  I got a CT scan, got prescribed some klonopin, and went home to rest.

By the time graduation came around Saturday, I had two dark-purple black eyes and a scratch on my cheek.  I think patrons at work thought I’d been abused.  Thank god for Ben Nye concealer, as I was able to hide that mess for graduation.  When I walked across the stage I practically danced.  After a harrowing week of feeling like crap, my mind in another world and not allowed to rest up after that first seizure, I still graduated.

Whenever I think about how I’m not sure I’d survive something, or I think I can’t do it, I just remember that I walked for graduation and finished two papers the week I had two seizures in a row.  I can do anything.

 

Advertisements

learning to love myself

I know I’ve got more to write on my epilepsy, but I wanted to take a break from that.  It’s already exhausting to live with; even after years, you think I’d be able to handle it.

Anyway.  I wanted to talk about body image, and my journey with learning to love myself and love my body.  Because it has been a grueling journey with so many lessons along the way, and I want to document it somewhere.

I don’t remember when it started.  Probably as with most young people, I assume pre-puberty or puberty is when I started noticing my body.  As it changed, so did my self-esteem.  Where I once gave no real thought to how I looked other than insecurities about my glasses (had ’em since I was 7), I couldn’t stop noticing myself.

Ballet was somewhat of a nightmare after that moment that I started paying attention.  I compared myself to the other girls — ridiculous, given they were all the typical ballerina body standard and I was still more muscular and stronger than they were — and this process went on until I quit when I was 14.

Even then, my body was all I could think about.  I felt like I would never become as thin as I wanted, and my body dysmorphic disorder controlled my life.  Even when my then-boyfriend told me I was beautiful, I never believed it.  I felt like I didn’t deserve compliments, and that I would never be happy with myself.

After college, I gained a lot of weight.  I got comments on it, and even after I lost all the weight again thanks to my thyroid issues, I still have trouble with the comment “you look so good now!”  I don’t like the way it implies that I didn’t look good before, because now I know that’s bullshit.

It took me 25 years to love my thighs.  I don’t know what caused it (much like I don’t remember when my body dysphoria began) but I remember thinking “why the hell am I so worried?”  Body standards are ridiculous anyway, and I felt myself and my worldview change when I realized I am worth loving and that nobody who matters is gonna give any damn about my thigh size.

It took me 26 years to love myself.  I still have trouble, of course, but for the most part I’ve given myself due credit.  I think, think, my good characteristics outweigh the bad, and even if they don’t, life is about learning every day.

That’s a thought that’s helped me too.  You aren’t who you were even ten minutes ago, much less a week or years ago.  Everyday is an opportunity for change, for understanding yourself and how you can better the decisions you make or the way in which you live your life.

It’s certainly a process, but I’m on the right track.

accepting a disorder (1/?)

(This got really long somehow.  Blame it on being in the mindset of writing final papers.)

I was thirteen when I had my first seizure, then none again until 2008.  Now it’s up to eight total in my lifetime, from the years 2008-2015.  (Two in 2008, one in 2014, and five in 2015).

Needless to say, this year has been the roughest year of them all in terms of my epilepsy.  But one thing is for sure: I’ve learned a lot about my own disorder and the way it affects me specifically.

Continue reading

circus girl without a safety net

Go, go, go, go now, out of the nest it’s time
Go, go, go now circus girl without a safety net
Here, here now, don’t cry
You raised your hand for the assignment
Tuck those ribbons under your helmet, be a good soldier.
First my left foot, then my right behind the other—

-Tori Amos, “Mother”

***

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been a bookworm and I’ve loved to write.  I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember and often used to go Young Authors’ Conferences to share my oh-so-thrilling tales of cats or NASCAR or whatever I used to write about.  I still write stories often (as in, I have a ton of notebooks filled and many files that I’ll never get the guts to publish sitting on the hard drives of every computer I’ve ever owned or used), and I don’t think I’ll ever not write.  When I was a kid I narrated my life in my head—“She turned on her heel and angrily stomped down the hall of her middle school as she left her friend to think over the note she’d written,” etc., which seems weird, but I’m sure someone else has done this before.  Maybe you’ve even done it.  I certainly won’t judge you if you have, because I catch myself doing it even now if I’ve been reading a lot.

But because of this, I’ve kind of always thought of my life in chapters.  Not specifically most of the time, but when I’ve had a drastic life change or even just a traditional shift toward something else, I’ve thought of it as “one chapter ending, another beginning”—kind of similar to the “when one door closes, another opens” proverb, just with books, in a language I’m incredibly familiar with.  It gets confusing, though, when chapters can start within chapters.  Within the overarching chapter of my four-year experience in a challenging, college-oriented high school were chapters of friendships, relationships, and events all of their own; my dad’s illness could have been a chapter all in itself but not only falls under the high school umbrella, but the summer between high school and college and then the beginning of the college chapter.  Even the after-effects of his death carry over to today.  It’s hard to determine where chapters begin and end, and that’s why this system is a little flawed and why I don’t restrict myself to it.

I’ve always felt like my life was pretty textbook, even though experiences make people all different.  But as far as experiences I’ve had, I don’t know if my life would make a great movie.  I mean, it’s got all the makings of Hollywood films these days—drama, romance, adventures (small ones but adventures nonetheless), tragedy, overcoming tragedy and ending in success.  But the story isn’t over.  Now, as I start my graduate school journey (which, admittedly, I should have started back in December, but too late to change that), I look forward to a new chapter.  But where should it begin?

If I get into Chapel Hill up in North Carolina—my number one, dream-grad school choice, I will be, of course, moving up to North Carolina and living with my aunt.  I’ve been reluctant to talk about how excited I feel because I will miss so many things about Alabama—Birmingham and Montevallo both.  My roots are here, I’ve lived in the same house since I was one-and-a-half, and before then my parents and I lived in a house literally a street away from the current one.  This house was my grandparents’ house, and I share land in Pinson with my sister that’s been in our family since my dad’s grandfather.  So, I have a lot of connections to Alabama and I know—it’s just in my personality—I will get homesick so much while I’m up in NC.

But at the same time…I’m ready.  I’m ready for a change of scenery, ready for a fresh start, even though I’m terrified.  I’m shy, despite how I sometimes can come across, and generally socially awkward, and theoretically, I won’t know anybody in my program.  When I went to JCIB, I knew a few people from my W.J. Christian days, even though I only ever became close to one of them my sophomore year—all my other friends and relationships were with people I met in high school.

The same goes for college (though I never dated anybody there)—I knew a few people, but ended up hanging out mostly with people I met at Montevallo.  But that’s not going to be the case up in Chapel Hill.  Of course, I’ll be living with my aunt and my cousin and uncle and other aunt and uncle will be in the state and surrounding areas, but school-wise…I won’t know anybody.  And that’s kind of what I’ve wanted for a while.  This combined with a more confident-in-myself me, a me who’s finally emerged as an individual with a ‘self’ even if that ‘self’ is comprised of my experiences, others’ influences and their experiences, and my own personality—as is everybody’s ‘self’ if you ask me—makes me eager to test out the Real World Me.

And honestly, I don’t even know what the ‘Real World Me’ means.  I’m not going to change; I’ll still be the books-loving, writing-loving, video game-loving, anime-watching person I’ve grown into being.  But testing it out on people I don’t know at all is the scary part, I guess.  I have the chance to forge an identity and I don’t want it to be one that I end up being unhappy with, but how can I change myself that much?  Am I happy with who I am, with the main character of my life?  Yeah, I really am.  I’ve overcome a lot, I struggle a lot day-to-day with my patience and depression and overall happiness, and of course I have things I want to change about myself both physically and mentally and behaviorally—who doesn’t?—but overall, I’m okay with who I am.  But I’ve stagnated here in Alabama, and I don’t feel myself growing as an individual anymore like I want to, and this certainly plays into how I feel about leaving.

But I guess I just recently realized how excited I am for the potential to go where nobody knows my name (except for, of course, my family up there) so that I have the chance to really and truly meet strangers for the first time.  Undergrad at Montevallo really did help me establish myself as my own person way more than IB did (probably because at high school your personality is still so malleable and really indistinct) but Chapel Hill will be the penultimate chance for this I get—or Greensboro, or wherever I go to graduate school if it’s not in the state of Alabama.  And I’m excited.

But I’m also scared out of my mind.

Well, here’s to the chapter titled ‘Graduate School Preparation’, subtitled ‘Acceptance or Rejection.’  Let’s hope it’s a good one with a happy ending, the Acceptance ending.  Because don’t we all love happy endings?

First, my left foot, then my right behind the other…

My November 23, 2011 Resolution: Never stop learning.

So I was just reading this article, and I got a feeling I haven’t remembered feeling in a long, long time.

You see, when I was little, I read encyclopedias like crazy.  My grandmother bought me this really awesome, big encyclopedia in which I first read about the sun’s fate to become a red giant in 7.5 billion years, then cool to a white dwarf (which freaked me out as a 6-year-old, I tell you what), but I reread and reread it all the time, always learning things I’d missed the previous times.

When I would read these encyclopedias, I would read about places like Australia and New Zealand and their natives (for some reason, Oceania has always fascinated me as a place, who knows why?) and other places too!, and always get this leap in my stomach, almost, like it was something I wanted to learn about forever and ever.

Then I read atlases, and just studied my globe – another gift from my grandmother, I believe – all the time.  I would just sit in my room and stare at it.

And I just really sometimes (okay, all the time when I’m reminded of it) feel like I should have majored or should go back to major in archaeology and/or anthropology and linguistics and geography, because I love ancient cultures and indigenous stuff and languages and I always have.  I always get that feeling that I never want to stop learning and I love history, I’m so glad I majored in it, but almost everything I took was Western-biased, and of course not much at all was ever taught about prehistory or early-early history of these places and I know some of that is from lack of information but still.

This sounds so stupid but phrases like

Her speech was rich with words of the natural world, words of the forest and the sea that some linguists suspect date back tens of thousands of years to the first migrations of man.

and

Like some other indigenous groups on this archipelago

…I mean simple phrases (and words, like “archipelago”) like that just really get me excited to learn about this sort of stuff.

I really have always loved history, geography, anthropology, even from an early age, and I never consciously really thought about it.  I mean, I’d be a medievalist if I went into history as a profession (Ph.D.-level), so it’s not like I’m not biased toward the West, too, but reading stuff like this always makes me want to become a prehistory-historian (does even such a thing exist?) or anthropologist or archaeologist and I probably never will, and it makes me sad.

The world is so full of depressing things and I think it made me so sad when I grew up and realized all of these things that went on, like British colonialism – and other colonialism of course but Britain was like, the Queen of Colonization – and world wars and all of that, that it’s very easy to forget the feeling of loving to learn these new things about an indigenous people, even if it’s a sad fate – like the one of the article.

I just love the study of human culture and humanity and its earliest days and it’s so fascinating to me that we’re all from one part of the world yet we all look so different and speak so many languages and I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling like this when I read about this stuff that I love.  I think that’s why the quote at the top of my blog is one of my absolute, all-time favorites, and why I’ll never stop quoting it — “What invisible strings connect us all,” from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This is the kind of stuff that will forever fascinate me.

I just want to get the motivated to want to read about this stuff again, to just spend an afternoon in the library reading encyclopedias, looking at and studying atlases, looking up recent archaeological digs, that sort of thing.  But it’s hard in the day of the internet and working and paying bills and just “being an adult” things that really take so much joy out of the life I had as a child.  I hate being cynical and hearing about depressing current events and being a (mostly) responsible adult, but things change, I guess.

But maybe one day, I’ll spend an off-day at the library, doing these things, feeling that new fascination and leap in the pit of my stomach at all of the new information I absorb.

We’ll see.

whutevah, I do what I wawnt!

After making an emotional post on tumblr about my dad, I realized two things:

  • it’s been a hella long time since I’ve posted here
  • I should probably post here.

So, what’s been going on in my life since I made the announcement of my plans to do NaNoWriMo on August 2 (whew, okay, that’s not as long as it’s been since I’ve posted on Livejournal, that’s okay, that’s just a little over a month, right?), you may ask?  Well, a whole buncha nothing.  I’ve worked, gone to Texas (more importantly, a beach in Texas – most importantly, an island in Texas), worked some more, and oh, I started playing World of Warcraft…oh, and I went to a club for the first time.  That’s about it, though – as far as life-changing events, I have undergone few to none in that time-span and these days my life is spent on tumblr, WoW, worrying about money because god, paychecks sure do go fast, and picking up bowling again.

So, what do I have to write about?  Well, who’s surprised – it’s -dun dun dunnn- my dad!  Sort of.  He’s kind of just a mention in this post, which  instead is going to attempt to focus on my blog itself (and by attempt I mean the good ol’ “paper attempt” – that is, I start out with a topic, a rough idea of things I want to cover, and before I know it, I have eight pages of stuff I’ve come up with while attempting to write the actual point of the paper…much like this parenthetical aside. whoops!).

My friend and manager, Kevin, has this blog he is currently calling “Hannah and Caroline and The Little Kumquat and Me.” Now, he’s had this blog longer than I’ve known his brother-in-law/my ex-boyfriend and therefore his family/him, and has said multiple times he made it as something to give to his first daughter Hannah as a way to show her a glimpse into her father that she may not see during the day-to-day routines – and I certainly hope I didn’t butcher what he’s said before, and if I have, I’m deeply sorry – really!  It’s a really cool idea, an excuse to start up a blog, and an excuse to continue blogging.

But it got me thinking…or rather, thinking about my dad and this blog and how I’ve neglected it lately got me thinking.  If I showed my future daughter/son (I’m hoping I have one of each, so…both?) my blog from my college/just-after-college year(s, because I’d love to continue this for years, and I’m really going to make the effort to), if the internet is even still around, what would they think?

Wow, Mom, you sure do talk about your dad a lot.  Was Grandpa REALLY that great?  Christ, did you ever see a therapist?

NaNoWriMo? HAH, good one – isn’t this your ninteenth attempt?

But I haven’t written solely about Dad.  I don’t know why I’m even remotely self-conscious about him being the subject of so many entries – I suppose because I don’t want to rehash the same stuff over and over again without coming up with new thoughts or feelings or realizations.  I guess part of me doesn’t want to seem fixated on it all, because if I have to be honest (and I do, I mean it’s my blog holding me accountable, right?), I don’t think of Dad very much in the grand scheme of things during my everyday routines.  Don’t get me wrong – I think of him at some point everyday, whether it’s something someone posted on tumblr that reminds me of him, or a South Park episode about NASCAR, a sport he loved (the only sport he loved that much, probably?), or a song that plays in PSP that reminds me of him.  No matter what, there is always SOMETHING that reminds me of him or makes him pop into my head.  But in terms of getting depressed about him, crying about him – these things happen rarely these days.  In a way, I’m glad, because it would be awkward of me being in customer service to start bursting into tears every single shift.  It helps that I have amazing family and friends to keep me from fixating on being sad, too.  It’s good that – no matter how much I complain about customers – I have work to keep me busy.  And tumblr, and WoW, and drawing, and writing – all of these things are great.

But I wonder how much my future children would see of my general moving-on-from-Dad’s-death I’ve done.  Would it seem overwhelming?  Do I really care?  His death defined my life in a way – it’s not the only thing that defines my life, I mean I’m not Taylor Swift whose songs pretty much only have to do with being a teenager and dating someone and he broke her heart and she’s not a cheerleader and blah blah blah predictable – but it’s one of my biggest life-events, right up there with graduating from IB and then graduating from college and my seizures.

But I’ve realized something.  My fear is not that my children won’t find another topic than my father in this blog – because my categories to the side of this “post an entry” page prove that there are other topics – but rather, I fear they will see it as a negative thing.  That they will see it as “our mom obsessing over losing her dad/our grandfather” instead of how I want them to see it, how I want anyone who reads my blog to see it – that I was lucky enough to have such a wonderful, caring, good man of a father, who still had his faults (because please, god, let me never completely sanctify him like people are wont to do about deceased loved ones – the man had a temper, and a terrible habit of falling asleep during a NASCAR race and then getting pissed later if we turned it off since he wasn’t watching it), that I wanted to share with the world some of the light he brought into my life, and to share how deeply it affected me.  He meant that much to me that I write about him often; he is remembered and loved still in my mediocre blog-writing, which can hardly do him justice but attempt to do so.

I want to teach them that all fathers out there aren’t horrible, because they will almost surely meet somebody or hear of somebody whose father abused them, who is no father to a daughter or a son.  The amount of poetry discussing abusive (sexually or otherwise) fathers to the amount of poetry discussing wonderful fathers, fathers like mine – is extremely disproportionate.  And I get it.  Writing is a wonderful outlet for pain, but sometimes the good guys need to be highlighted too.  More than anything, I want my children to know how great their grandfather was, how he was one of the kindest souls one could ever meet.  I want them to have a glimpse of him, and not just think, “Wow, Mom really should see a counselor about her obsessing over Grandpa.”

He’s just a character of my blog…but he’s a major character.  More people than I think realize are major characters of my blog in so many ways, and I hope my children get a picture – no matter how brief – of how their mother never allowed her sad experiences keep her from enjoying life, because despite the number of entries involving my dad, they are ways of keeping him alive and sharing his love with as many people as she can.

Isn’t that a fair reason?

Consider the following!: Epilepsy sucks.

I don’t know why I keep thinking about it so early, but June 26 is coming up pretty soon.  It’s not an anniversary, or a birthday, but rather the anniversary of my last seizure–that is, my last tonic-clonic/grand-mal/what most people think of when you say the word “seizure” (the jerking, the unconsciousness, all of that great stuff).  My last grand-mal seizure was on June 26, 2008, while I was at The Children’s Place at HUMC and stacking up cots.  I remember feeling weird, jumpy kind of, and then next thing I knew I was waking up in an ambulance on the way to Trinity Hospital’s emergency room for the third time that year.

It will be three years since my last seizure on June 26 of this year, and I can technically try going without seizure medication (2-5 years without a seizure is considered “safe” to try and go without medicine).  But why would I?  Why would you go off a medication that keeps your body from losing all control, regardless of where you are, whether you’re driving or sleeping or on the toilet, just to see if your body will keep itself together?  Sounds pretty stupid to me, but hey, what do I know?  I’m not a neurologist.  I do know that after my three seizures in those a-little-under-6-months, my four in my lifetime (first ever was May 24, 2003), I don’t trust my body to do anything anymore.

The year I had all my post-high school seizures was the worst year of my life.  Not only had I lost my father in late 2007 and my grandmother in April, I’d had a seizure in January – on the fourth – and then on May 27 and then again on June 26.  I was gaining weight because of medicine and just being sick, I could drive then I couldn’t drive when I’d JUST gotten my car back in December of 2007, so I felt like a burden to my mother and Joseph who had to drive me everywhere, and at one point in time I was on more medications than an 18-going-on-19-year-old should have been on.  From my Livejournal on July 6, 2008:

I am simply up to my neck in prescription medications. Twelve pills a day – four in the morning, eight at night – 1,740 milligrams in total, plus whatever is in my Orthocyclen. Add an inhaler, two puffs as needed, which delivers 180 mcg of albuterol in total, and three Advil (200 mg/tablet – 600 mg in total), or 1 Imitrex (whatever I feel more like taking) for migraines. Throw in some IBS on the side, and you’ve got me in a nutshell.

At the time I was switching from Keppra – which made me REALLY gain weight and didn’t help with seizures, obviously – to Lamictal, which I’m still taking, three years later, but even today I have to take three medications (four, if you count melatonin, and I need to start taking it again but haven’t for a while) at night.

So, I think it’s pretty understandable that during the year of 2008, especially within the first seven months, I was the most depressed I’d been since my father died, maybe even since before.  I felt so needy.  I had to rely on other people for transportation when my car had been newly fixed.  I had people asking me if I was okay every two seconds, which, while I’m glad I had people who cared, it got old fast.  The director of The Children’s Place made sure I knew that even if the child-to-teacher ratio was met (it never was, by the way) and if I was 19, I couldn’t be alone with the kids because of my epilepsy.  It’s a great reason, of course, but at the time it was just another heap on the pile of “why Christina is worthless” that was just building and building in my head.  Even at Starbucks, I was constantly terrified of having a seizure while fixing drinks and pouring freshly-steamed milk all over me.  I hated being babied.  I was convinced I had cancer and that the MRIs and CT scans just hadn’t shown it.

Even though I’ve taken control of my epilepsy – no, Lamictal has, not me – I still get down about it a lot, actually.  Every single night when I go to take my pills I wonder why I have to take these.  What did I do to make my brain decide it wanted a reset every once in a while and render me unable to even talk properly for weeks because of a bruised tongue and cheek and sore muscles and the inability to drive for six months seizure-free under Alabama law?  What happens if (but I always think ‘when’) the pills stop working, when my body grows immune to it and I have a seizure again?  Can I just go back to being a kid and not having to take any pills except for the occasional antibiotic?  Why do I need three at night?  I mean, every kid hates taking pills, but I never grew out of it.  I still get nauseous probably 97% of the time I take my pills at night and feel like throwing up for hours afterward.  It’s horrible and I don’t know how to stop it – I’ve tried everything, including pills in pudding, and nothing helps.  Or it helps for a while and stops.  Psychologically I never grew out of the fear and hatred of pills. And all of it stems back to “well, if I weren’t so screwed up, I wouldn’t have to take them.”

There are rarely moments when I screw up and don’t think, “What’s wrong with me?  Everything is wrong with me!” I know that sounds dramatic, and yes I’m on medicine for depression but something about the year of seizures made something open up inside me that I can’t get closed now.  If I oversleep for work, I get upset more than I feel I would normally and cry and my mind just goes – why am I screwed up?  Why am I such a failure?  And it all goes back to the seizures.  I don’t know if anybody really knows how depressed I was that year.  My mom and Joseph both have and had an idea, but there is something so very deep in my mind that just screams, “You’re screwed up.  You’re messed up and there’s nothing you can do about it but to keep fucking up everything for everybody!”  For something I can’t even control…how stupid is that?

I don’t know what happened that summer with my body.  Was it just the ceasing of major hormones of puberty and my body finally just settling into itself as Christina the Adult?  My first seizure was when I was 13, so I could see it having to do something with puberty.  But how will that affect pregnancy, whenever I have kids?  Won’t I have to be taken off my Lamictal?  What then?  What if I pass it down to them?

The paragraph above and the thoughts contained therein don’t really ever go through my head when I’m upset about it or something else that has made me feel like something’s wrong with me.  Even migraines make me hate my body and hate myself.  But they’re still things I worry about and things that I feel a 21-year-old should not have to worry about.  I hate having to tell doctors, when they ask if I have any conditions or am on any medication, that I “have epilepsy” (I still have trouble identifying myself as an epileptic because I don’t think it should be something that defines someone), or that my Lamictal is “for epilepsy.”

But I guess that’s the real world, and I guess I’ll always have to be on seizure medication unless I want to risk another seizure and then…well, we’ll see when I get there.

Happy Upcoming Last-Seizure Anniversary, self!  Maybe if you make it to five years we can try to get off medication…but we’ll see.

We’ll always see.