I Hear a Bell

Sometimes when I sit in the silence for long enough I can start to hear a tiny little bell. I wonder what that means?

There are sayings that will tell you that if you hear a bell that it means that someone you are meant to marry is nearby. The issue I have with that is I know who I want to marry and they are usually just close to me in general. So I have decided that I have enough facts to debunk this.

I wonder again if it means that something, good or bad, is coming my way. There are not too many bland and straightforward answers that can provide me with any relief. What happens within me is a jumble of this and that and things that make no sense. It’s all hazy until it isn’t, or something like that.

This bell rings always in the same tone. Small, loud and sharp. Do you remember in school when we had to take those hearing tests? The ones that would send a loud beep into your ear and if you could hear it you would raise a hand, depending on the ear? That is the bell I hear.

Sometimes I wonder if I raise my hand and acknowledge the bell then maybe it will stop. If I give this bell more meaning than what it actually holds maybe I will get it to leave me be. If I humanize the sound in my ears than maybe the sound will become so loud, deafening me for just a moment, until it finally fades away.

I can hear the bell when I am worried. I can hear it when I am sad or mad or even placated. It does not matter when or where I am, the bell is more than that. The bell is almost a beacon now. When I am alone, which is rare, I listen out for it. I want to hear it because it calms me to know that in a world that is ever changing at least I can still hear the bell.

When you type into google “I can hear a bell ringing” it tells you maybe you have ruptured your eardrum. This, like most things, is the WebMD example. You know when you have a headache and all of a sudden you realize you have 3 out of 4 symptoms for a brain tumor? Well I apparently have 1 out of 1 symptom for a ruptured eardrum.

The thing is I am not hearing this bell all of the time. I hear it when I think hard enough, when nothing is around me and I have no other option but to listen for the bell to avoid being alone in my own whirlwind.

As I write this, as I think about all of this, I realize me and this bell are close. We are friends and we are the only two things in my life that are constant. My own self is a constant because no matter when or where or who, I am going to be this same self. The bell in a constant because it rings when I need it, comes when I fear the silence, nothing else has ever held onto me that closely before.

This one is for you bell, and your damn imaginary ringing.

Obsessively Compulsively Myself

OCD is this big broad thing that sometimes means a lot and sometimes means so little. I think it means so much when you know that it is happening, but it means so little when it is in a low time. Media and movies have made it seem like those with OCD are only those who must count to twenty before they leave their houses, or they must turn a light on and off multiple times before they leave a room. For me OCD means not sleeping because I am too worried about something going wrong or having a breakdown when the night or day does not go exactly as I have planned.

The moments when I know I am going to spiral are long and drawn out. They last for hours sometimes days and all I can do is be a passenger to my own mind. I can feel when it creeps up, usually due to something that is going to change and it is so far out of my control. My jaw will clench and my stomach will drop and no matter where I am or what I am doing I need to stop. I must, in that moment, drop what I am doing so I can simply harvest enough energy to panic.

I have ever met someone else with diagnosed OCD. I sometimes wonder if I am the only one in the whole world who has breakdowns because there is a possibility I may be promoted. Do other people feel like the entire day is no longer worth it if they are running late for work or sleep in past an alarm? Am I one of few, or one of many who don’t need to count everything, but have been keeping a running count of my steps since I woke up this morning? I hate math, but I am so drawn to even number that my radio can never be on 17 it needs to be on 20. I will even reach up from someone’s back seat to change the sound level, because it makes me sick.

I am one single person. One person who identifies as female and stands at 5 feet 6 inches tall. A person who somehow is two people because in my mind I am a buzzing mess of things to do and times they need to be finished but on the outside I smile and move along as if nothing is wrong.

Every night before I go to sleep I take a small white cylindrical pill. Sometimes before I swallow it down I just look at it. I look at how small it is and at the thin green stripes that enclose each end and I thank it. I thank it because it was there for me even when I did not want or care for it. It has brought me up and made me sleep. This small white cylindrical pill has done more for my mental health in a year then anything has done in the last 20.

I have OCD and it has been one long year. I have had it my whole life is what doctors say yet I recognize only a one year milestone. One year I have felt so much relief and I no longer wake up in the middle of the night worried that everything I own will stop working. I no long cry because I can’t seem to think one normal thought. I am me and me is obsessive. I am me and me is compulsive. I am me and I have grown for the better. I am me and I will no longer be a victim to my own mentality.

Maybe

I had a bad week. One of those kinds of weeks that seem like they will never end, but not in the ‘I worked so hard this week’ kind of way but in the mentally exhausting kind of way. I haven’t really had an episode in a while. By episode I mean panic attack or anxiety attack, I call them episodes because it can be hard for me to sometimes know if they stem from panic or anxiety.

I feel like my life in in limbo. This semester is coming to a close and I am worried that I will have nothing to do this summer. I have and internship and a job lined up, but the OCD sort of nags at me and tells me that even though I have plans and things to do, that maybe they wont actually happen. Maybe my internship will fall through, maybe my job will end up not needing me. Maybe I wont get the funding I need to do the internship that is unpaid. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The moment before the episodes start I feel like I am in a tunnel. Like I am in a tunnel that is 100 feet under the water and I also have four winter hats on and three pairs of socks, so that the heat and stress has no place to come out of. As the moment progresses I also feel like I have been stuck in the cold, its like the heat reaches a point that is near boiling and then I get cold. I can’t hear anything around me, all I can hear is my own heart beat. It’s off from normal, but that can be expected. Before I have time to bring myself down I’m crying, nearly uncontrollably.

When they end, it take hours, days, weeks maybe just maybe even months. This is because they don’t ever actually end, they go on and on and on forever with no end and I’m just a passenger to my own like at this point. I sit behind the wall of my own unhinged emotions and I let them talk for me, let them hug people, answer questions and most of all I let them take over. I fall distant even when I want to be present. I want so badly to reach inside of myself, to grab the anxiety and smush it. I want to look it in the eye and tell it that is has not control over me, but I can’t. All I can do is let it run its course, like a cold or a sore muscle.

Maybe I can live a year without this feeling. Maybe I can even go a few months. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

When we Change and How we Know

There had always been a part of me, a part of me that was very aware of who I was. There was also the part of me that knew, knew that I did not have the courage or the knowledge to accept this. Is it like this for everyone?

I would not actually know. This day in age coming out is a right, it is a part of a persons identity. It happens when someone is most willing to let it happen, and it happens exactly how they want it to (or hope to want it to). I am no different. I had that privilege. Nobody got to tell before I was ready, but then again I did not know I was coming out until I was in the process of doing it.

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You. I have known you for years. I have laid with you, hugged you and you have done all the same to me. The relationship used to be platonic. It was weekend sleepovers and midnight movies, until it was not. One summer we grew into weekend ice cream ‘friend’ dates and midnight cuddles, and then it became harder and harder for me to let you go home on Sundays, and almost increasingly more difficult not to instinctively kiss you goodbye.

Then one night you told me. Through a text message because it was still hard to say it aloud. You told me, before anyone else, that you were bisexual. From that moment my world went hazy. It was like you told me, and then I knew. I knew that there was something I needed to tell you, myself, my mother, yet I was SO hesitant.

When I really realized that I was in love, I do not think I really KNEW. There was not a shift in how I acted around you or how you made me feel, yet there was a shift in the status. I wanted to hold your hand in public, and kiss your forehead when I left for class, I wanted and wanted and wanted until I exploded.

I told a friend, looked her dead in the eye and told her I loved you. This did not seem to phase her, she simply told me to tell you because I was blind to see you did not feel the same. But I had not even come out yet, was not even sure if I needed to come out. Was there any part of me that was gay, bisexual or even straight? I had no idea what to identify myself as.

I did tell you though. Weeks later with tears in my eyes and whispers of never having loved anyone as much as you. You responded with tears and reassurance that is had always been me. I came out that day, not as a bisexual or as gay, but as someone who loved you.

Today, I identify as bisexual. I am not sure if this is for ease of explanation to family members, or because I truly recognize myself as such. I wonder if it is bad that I do not care, that I think loving you is simply the best outcome I could have ever asked for. Is it wrong to put my love for you above my own self identification?

I changed overtime, and I changed because I grew to love you. I knew I always loved you. From that fateful moment in high school when you knew I was wearing a purple shirt in honor of a band members birthday. When you laughed at my jokes, and stuck around when I was at my worst.

I am not sure what this means for me. This is something that would have surely made my palms sweat 6 months ago, yet here I am looking at you from across the room realizing that if you are here, then it is okay.

I answered my own question; loving you is allowed to be put above my self identification and I will never feel guilty for that.

How the Public School System Failed my Family

In the beginning of the spring my family made our first move in about 8 years. For me moving and changing schools was just how my family worked. I have changed schools and bounced back from mom and dad since the start. I had grown accustomed to the changes and was always good at making friends. My younger brother (the middle child) only moved from one district to another where a list of learning disabilities made my mother decided to keep him in one place. So, we moved and we stayed in one small living complex for 8 years. This meant my youngest brother never had to switch schools from elementary through middle school.

This was probably for the best because he had always struggled academically and even slightly socially. So, when we moved and he only had a year and a half left of middle school, which in our town was spilt into two districts, it meant he would need to move schools. For most kids this is not that big of a deal. We live in a town that only hit city population levels about 10 years ago, and in most cases if you were involved in any social activities or sports it meant no matter which school you went to you would know somebody. This was not the case for my youngest brother. He had dappled in a string of sports, but even then the only friends he had ever made were from the south side of the city, and his new school was on the north side.

As I write this I can begin to see how this all slightly sounds like a movie, but trust me it is very real, and because of this my youngest brother is on the verge of having to repeat the 7th grade.

He was nervous for the move and a new school, which makes sense. My mom drove him on his first day and they went in together and met his principle and his student guide who was meant to bring him around for the first day (we later found out this did not happen). He came home and was tired and barely wanted to talk. We all told him it was just new kid jitters, I was a pro at them, but the entire situation seemed a little bit off from what was considered normal.

After a month nothing got better, and everything got worse. Every week he was missing the bus and because there was nobody to drive him this meat every week he also missed a day of school. We soon found out he had barely made any friends and was eating lunch alone. Then soon he came home crying. He was miserable and he was failing every class.

In his old school he had been doing fine, nothing amazing but fine. Here though he had become an ‘F’ student. This was what things were like in the days before he was put on an IEP or individual education plan. After he had done well for about two years they school decided he had no real reason to keep the IEP. He did fine without the IEP until the school change.

Now, after about 3 moths we had a list of things to bring to the school board to attempt to get him back into his previous school; grades, doctor notes and a plee from my brother himself. They said we could move his school, but transportation was on us, which is hard when your job starts at the same time as your son’s school day.

Now my brother has apparently been skipping class all day long to go sit in the bathroom. What is most surprising about this it that nobody in the school noticed he was gone until the end of the day, and they didn’t call to inform my mother until the following day. Most often schools will choose to “get rid” of the kids who required any form of IEP because this costs the school money. When my brother was removed from the IEP he began to fall apart, and this processes was just accelerated by the move to a new school.

We are now in the extensive processes of trying to figure out if we can manage to get him back and forth to his old school everyday. We are fighting to get him back onto an IEP, but everywhere we turn they tell us that he is fine and if he just applied himself he would be doing that much better. There is the issue of him not even knowing where to start with the piles of homework he is coming home with.

All we want if for somebody in the school system to understand that he may be a special case, and he needs help. Public schools should not shut a child out or turn away his problems by getting rid of him. That is what happened in our case. Not one person wanted to “deal” with him so when they had the chance they moved his school, to one three times the size with a group of kids he had never interacted with before. This is how the public school system failed my family.

Why I Decided to Give Up Meat.

The idea to live my life meat free stemmed from a multitude of things. There was the slight displeasure I would feel every time I put a piece of meat to my tongue, the fact that being an environmental science major meant I spent most of my time with those who choose to avoid meat, and how I knew I would begin to feel when I cut it out of my life.

At first I decided I would end my mostly carnivorous lifestyle silently, I told my closest friend and she agreed that it was a great idea, and that we could do it together. This was a huge step for me. I had tried multiple times to give it up all on my own, with no prevail. I had been young and unaware that the processes would take more then simply cutting it all out entirely.

Week one was difficult and I almost caved at the sight of the fried chicken my school was serving for dinner the second day. What got my through was that I knew I wasn’t alone. I had someone who had also never ventured to our universities vegan station before. I picked for the first week keeping a rather close friendship with french fries, but before I knew it tofu found its way onto my plate as well as an array of vegetables that had before never been of much interest.

The it came time for a visit home, and the inevitable talk with my household of die hard meat eaters. My mom knew as soon as it left my lips that I was serious. Most of the other times I had told her that I was becoming vegetarian with no reason. This time though I had a list of reasons why this would be better for me. I gave her a list of things that I was now eating and she started shopping. At first she would get frustrated with me because it was hard to decide what I would eat, but one mother daughter shopping trip later she could replaced almost everything my family would eat through a week with a healthy vegetarian option.

I am now about 3 months into the entire processes, and so far not only do I feel better about myself, but there are a multitude of health benefits. I would never try to change anyone by telling them meat is awful, because to make such a drastic lifestyle change you need to be all in it yourself. If you feel pressured then it will never happen for you.

I had wanted to give up meat for years, and now that I think about it I was already on my way for a long time. I had avoided every meat product except chicken, and cringed at even the mention of red meat. I would never expect someone to read this and think being vegetarian is easy, because there are times when all I want is my moms chicken wings, but then I remember why I am doing this. Meat is the main reason for global warming and uses an excessive amount of water. These facts may not change anyone else, but for me, a die hard tree hugger, this was heart wrenching news.

Making a change is never easy, but if you decided on your own to do it, and find a veggie loving friend, then it can really simply be a lifestyle shift rather then a change.

Finding A Home Away From Home

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When everyone tells you to go to college, they tell you it is all for this amazing education. That this is the only way you can grow up to be successful and get a job one day. That it is a growing experience and a time to find yourself.

The things I was pensive about made a list; things like, moving from home, making friends, being comfortable and everything that involved being an adult in general. I was more then nervous to leave the safety of my High School, and being the first child in my immediate family to ever leave home.

I was scared of all nighters and papers that would take me months to finish, college finals that would consume my life and make me unable to sleep. I was uneasy about parties and the loud atmosphere associated with living in dorms. I was so put on edge by these things that in my first month of college, I cut myself out of everything.

I called my mother crying telling her I couldn’t go back and that living on campus just wasn’t for me. I was convinced the entire college might not be for me. I wanted to abandon my desire to pursue anything in the science field and go to the safe state school in the next town over and get a teaching degree. I had told myself, and scared myself so much that I was ready to accept all of this.

When my mother told me I had to go back to school and try for at least another week, I was convinced that by then end of that awful week I would be ready to go home even more.

What they don’t tell you about college is that it is very hard to adjust. I know for some kids all they needed was for their parents to drop them off and they were simply ready to start being adults, and some kids have one night of loneliness and then they move on, but there is a large portion of kids who struggle immensely with being far from home and having to make decisions that they never thought the would need to, I was that kid.

What I learned though was that I was missing the experiences. I was missing finding my passion and finding a group of people who embodied everything that I desired to be. I needed friends who didn’t mind staying up late with movies rather then drinks, friends who gave evil eyes to people when they didn’t recycle their water bottles. I found those friends, and once I did college changed for me.

I was ready to get four hours of sleep because my test was the next day; ready to write an excessively long paper solely for the fact I would be so proud of myself when it was done. I learned that renting a study room and streaming a fake fireplace on the T.V. would be a memory that I will never loose. I found clubs where treacherous rock climbs lead to quaint pumpkin patches were we would bond.

College hurt at first, and there was not one moment that was easy, it was hard work, but it was work that without the surprising “no” of my mother I may have never experienced.

What really needs to be considered is that even things that seem scary and unattainable and never really such. If surrounded by the right people almost any near fatal situation can become a success

Expression is the key to acceptance.