- The Ramblings of a Madwoman
I have big boobs, but a little over a year ago I had BIG BOOBS. I was in the 8th grade when I got to the point where without a bra, I was in absolute agony and holding my arms tightly over my chest all day. And they only got larger from there. I wore a size C bra until I was a junior in high school, and it took an entire day to find a store that could measure me appropriately. My life up until a year ago was horrific when it came to anything that was going to be covering my chest: bras, bikini tops, t-shirts, button up shirts. Nothing fit correctly.
I assume at this point you’re asking for just a *crumb* of context, wondering, “How big were you? It couldn’t have been that bad…” and “Dating must have been easy! Guys must have been all over you, right?” Well, it’s these assumptions I’ve come to put in the same dumpster as my titties before I set it on fire.
First of all, let’s explain how big I was versus how big I am now.
I recently discovered a boob-to-pancake batter calculator, so we’re going to do it that way.
From the age of 13 to 25, I was carrying around the equivalent of 86 pancakes on my chest every day. Can you even fathom that many pancakes? I know I can’t. Now imagine, a young teenager, only five foot three inches, stumbling around the halls of junior high, with all of those hormones and angst and cringe… but now she’s carrying 86 pancakes worth of batter in a fanny pack. Not only does that sound horrifically embarrassing, but it’s just down-right cumbersome.
I’m now only carrying around a svelte 86 pancakes, which an adult body can carry better than young teen. It’s still way too many pancakes, but it is infinitely more manageable.
Here’s the chart so you can find out the grotesque amount of pancakes you carry around daily:
You would think that any well-meaning adult would want a young child to carry around an appropriate amount of pancakes, right? Wrong. I can’t tell you how many GROWN ASS WOMEN would tell me, “Oh, people pay good money for what you have!” or, “At least let them catch you a man first” or, “You’re so lucky; I wish I had boobs, but I’m so flat!”
I was literally a child, wearing ill-fitting bras that hurt me and left scars on my torso, or I was spending a whole measly Pizza Hut paycheck on a $66 bra, because at the time, there were no cheap options for people like me. I had to special-order my bikini tops from Britain. I longed to shop in the bra section at Kohl’s, but I had to trek my ass thirty mins away to the FancyPants Mall in Richpeoplestan to go to a freakin’ Nordstrom’s in order to buy something that would only scar me a little bit.
While my friends got to buy phones and video games and eat out after school everyday, I was saving money so I could have a backup bra for when mine wore out because my bra was carrying around 86 sweaty pancakes incased in meat sacks everyday. I wore a sports bra to bed at night because if I didn’t I WOULD SAG. I was 16 and if I didn’t wear a bra 24/7 I would look like a 68-year-old who burned her bra in the 70’s and didn’t care that her nips touched her knees.
But as a 16-year-old I cared quite a bit, if you can imagine. Not to mention, if I went bra-less and had to walk up stairs or move any faster than a walk… my boobs would cause black eyes for everyone in the tristate area.
This also made dress shopping an actual nightmare. I wanted to wear cute dresses that were strapless, or had fun open backs, or literally anything other than a tank top with thick straps, but it was not to be. I wore the same style of dress to everything, and while I still looked cute, I missed out on all the sassy clothes only teens can pull off.
In the picture below, where I’m in the car, notice the rut in my shoulder from the plastic clear strap of the bra I was wearing, which was four cup-sizes too small for me. I adopted the pin-up girl look, because those A-line designs were the only thing that didn’t make me look like a boob with legs. In the rock climbing picture, I’m wearing a bra that fits, but you can still see just how aggressive those things were on my chest. It honestly probably made my rock climber’s shoulder worse than it would have been. The last photo is of one of my many underwire scars from the night before my surgery.
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The worst thing about having big boobs, for me at least, was how difficult they made it for me to do the things I loved to do.
I stopped riding horses and rock climbing. Rock climbing had extra challenges because my torso was three inches farther from the rock face than everyone else’s. Paired with the fact that I’m so short, it was kind of a wonder I was able to climb up to 5.10 when I was climbing regularly.
I didn’t realize how much I loved to be outside and active until after I had four pounds of tissue removed from my chest. Four pounds of pressure on my upper back that I no longer had to deal with– four pounds lighter to move around with more ease, and probably two inches slimmer in my chest. Clothes aren’t a pain in the ass anymore, at least no more so than they are for other women in general.
I get that women who are “flat-chested” want boobs, and that they would look at me and think how perfect my life must be because I have such great boobs. But it’s the same thing as hair; if you have straight hair you want it curly, and vice versa.
I know if I had started out flat that I most certainly would have envied some women and their chesticles, but let me tell you that it stops being fun and flirty at a point and starts being a literal pain in your back.
Before my surgery, I woke up everyday at a four on the pain scale and went to bed at a six. EVERYDAY. From the age of 12, my back ached constantly. I rarely took pain killers because I was so used to the pain that it didn’t seem worth it to get the few hours of reprieve, especially when I knew it would just come back and feel worse once everything wore off. My surgeon was floored that I was just now getting a reduction at 25, seeing as I had been enduring pain like that since I was 12.
To top this whole catastrophe off, I’ll answer the last question: No, my boobs did not get me boyfriends.
They only garnered me the unwanted attention of men, because especially for younger men, the bigger the boob the bigger the slut until proven otherwise. By the time a guy knew me well enough to know that I was just the unfortunate nerd host to these sentient meat sacks of pain, I was no longer a sexual interest, but also not even a romantic one. It seemed that once I was one, I couldn’t be the other to a lot of guys.
I remember one of the football players in high school that was in my journalism class had pulled me aside one day and abruptly apologized for what the football team was saying about me. I hadn’t heard anything, so I asked what he was talking about, to which he nervously looked down quickly and whispered, “You know, about your… boobs.” I had not heard what the football team was saying about me, but I’m guessing that I’m glad I didn’t. I thanked him, and I thank him everyday for being so considerate of someone he barely knew over the people he played and worked with everyday.
I didn’t start dating until I was 22, and I think my boobs had a lot to do with that. Not that my love life is on fire now, but I think that I had integrated my boobs into my personal identity, and I knew what type of attention they drew to me. So I tended to steer clear of romantic and sexual attention, preferring to sit like the heroine of a YA novel – waiting to be swept off my feet by three different men while I saved the world from, I don’t know, zombie rabbits, or something.
My big take away from my year with less boob is this: a singular body part should not define who you are.
It should not be so deeply ingrained in your psyche as “a part of you” that it keeps you from doing the things you love to do. A body part shouldn’t effect your dating life or draw unwanted attention from people simply because it’s there. And you shouldn’t have to listen to people telling you to keep a part of yourself that is causing you harm, simply because others would “love to have that” or “wish they could have that.”
You should be able to remove, or add, the things to your body that you need for your survival, both physically AND mentally, whether that be adding insulin, removing a tumor, or adding boobs. So take that statement where you want to take it, because you deserve to feel like you.
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My parents met in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University in the mid 90’s. My mom was in a sorority, my dad a fraternity and they hit it off at a Greek mixer. I came into existence in 1995, they subsequently dropped out of university and moved to Louisville to raise little ol’ me. Two and a half years after I was born, my sister came into the picture, and a year or so after that my parents got divorced. My dad stayed in Kentucky, but my mom needed to move to Indiana to be closer to my aunt and nana.
Every other weekend, every summer, and alternating holidays would be spent at my dad’s in Kentucky (this schedule not strictly followed as I got older) and all schooling would take place in Indiana. The driving distance between my parents was a lengthy three hours; which is short enough to be doable, but long enough to be slightly painful. The divorce wasn’t easy on anyone. It was never a smooth, simple thing. It was uncomfortable and it always felt like someone was deeply hurting more than the other, no one ever on the same wavelengths, and everyone seemingly took turns over-vocalizing the pain in what was usually not the most constructive way. Essentially, none of us made it through unscathed.
When it was time for me to start kindergarten, my mom soon found the Catholic elementary school, St. Ambrose, in Anderson, that seemed like the best fit. Quickly upon starting school, I was also signed up for this afterschool program called Rainbows which took place every Tuesday. A few other kids and myself would all get a ride over to the slightly larger Catholic school in town, we’d dash out of the car for bomb milk and cookies, then talk about our feelings for an hour or so in small groups.
Pretty quickly, all of us kids realized the common denominator between us was that we all lacked a nuclear household.
Rainbows created this community of kids and a safe space that essentially validated our feelings. All of them, every single emotion we felt… we were told it was normal.
If I’m being honest, I don’t remember nearly any of the particulars in those little lessons we had within the small group talks. I was in Rainbows for years, yet I genuinely don’t remember what we talked about each week. I just vaguely remember the constant undertone of reassurance that nothing was our fault, which I understand is a common thing for kids with divorced parents to feel. Though I did (and do) feel responsible for my parents marriage, never in my life have I ever felt to blame for my parents divorce.
The primary memories that stick out from Rainbows are the relationships that it created. There were so many adults that felt (and still feel) like an extension of family, and the best friends I had in that lifetime have transcended into adulthood. All of the friendships, even the ones that didn’t quite withstand the test of time, were/are priceless and heavily impacted my life. They’re the people who just got it. It’s always felt like yes, we’re all in our own boats, but we’re still in the same ocean weathering similar storms.
Rainbows encouraged a deep level of empathy.
We were this group of mismatched kids, varying in age, personality types, and all with different stories: some kids lost a parent, some lived with grandparents, some parents were divorced but still lived close to each other (these were the ones I was most jealous of), some kids didn’t know one of their parents at all – the list goes on. Yet throughout the lessons, we were made to feel that yes, our situation sucks and our story may seem harder than the person’s next to us, but that doesn’t invalidate that person’s pain.
All pain is valid, we are not here on this Earth to decide who gets to feel and what it is they feel.
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In deciding to write this article, I googled Rainbows for the first time ever. Finding out that Rainbows was founded by a woman was not surprising, but it did bring a smile to my face (#girlpower). Rainbows, actually fully named Rainbows for All Children, was founded in the mid 70’s by Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three boys. She was devastated when her marriage ended and found solace in a support group. It didn’t take long for her to realize that her sons could also greatly benefit from such a group, but her search for this came up empty. Thus, Rainbows for All Children was born.
“Working with other concerned parents, Suzy began organizing weekend retreats for the children in single parent homes. In three years, more than 800 youth benefited from the retreats. Suzy knew more needed to be done. She started working on a curriculum, the foundation of Rainbows for All Children, for children who experienced loss. The curriculum was designed to provide grieving elementary school children with an understanding of their new family unit, to help build a sense of self-esteem and to give them the tools to properly cope with their loss.”Rainbows for All Children
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Ultimately, it seems Suzy understood that relying on a child’s resiliency isn’t always the best or only answer. Just because kids have the ability to quickly bounce back on their own, doesn’t mean they should be left to their own devices to do so. I mean, think about it: why do adults go to therapy? Typically to finally unpack all of that compartmentalized childhood trauma. So when you think your kid is “getting over it” and “bouncing back” – it’s possible that they’re really just saving that pain for later.
For those aspiring toward self-betterment, or those simply looking to cope with mental illness: keep reading. When I moved to the ‘big’ city, I left my therapist behind. After switching companies twice and health insurance three times, I never found a new one. Maybe it’s social anxiety, maybe it’s laziness. Who knows. Instead, during an especially desperate, depression-spiral induced shopping trip to Barnes & Noble two years ago, I started buying self-help books. These are the ones I’ve found and what I’ve learned from them.
This was the first self-help book that I purchased in my shopping trip of desperation and it’s also the one that’s been the most impactful. This book helped me reframe my depression and anxiety – my beast – into something that wasn’t so intense and scary. Wilson uses her own life for the spine of the story, sharing what’s worked and what hasn’t in her experience. But most importantly, anxiety and depression isn’t showcased as some supernatural horrific, plague-like thing. It’s just a part of you, something that can be made livable, or even beautiful.
This book was a secondary purchase just in case the FWMTBB:ANJTA didn’t work out. Unf*ck Your Brain looks at what causes our brains to go ‘chemically batshit’ which results in anxiety, depression, you name it. If you prefer hard facts, straight to the point, no bullshit formatting over personal storytelling, then you should try this book out. I felt like this book gave me a good foundational knowledge on the ‘why’ behind the feelings, which is just as necessary as knowing how to work through them.
I purchased this book on a whim without reading the back – I thought the front cover looked interesting enough. I only started reading it after realizing that a friends’ emotions were causing sleepless nights and emotional stress for myself. This quick read is packed with useful information as well as a C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method for working through your emotions. Boyle, the author, was in an extremely emotional and traumatic point in her life when she began writing the book which made it easier to relate to. I think that it’s never too late to learn how to cope or deal with emotions.
This book is a part of the design-thinking phenomena created by Burnett and Evans at Stanford. Formatted around the idea of ‘reframing’ your thinking to create a life you enjoy and like, it’s a good tool for those who may be more apt towards ‘workbook’ type learning. There are small prompts, check-in dashboards and more to help you stay on track towards creating a better life. While I’m ultimately not a fan of ‘feel good’ books like this, it was an interesting read and did help reframe some destructive thought patterns. I think that creating physical dashboards for love, health, play and work can help to keep you focused on your goals.
What’s your favorite feel good book?
Recently I read Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I practically inhaled the book in just a few short days, and honestly I’m shook. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I read, because I devoured it like a bomb burrito – so quickly I didn’t even really comprehend what parts of the burrito were actually the game changers, what I should factor in to my next burrito creations.
(I’ve been on a burrito making kick recently, so bare with me on this analogy.)
But alas, some things clearly stick subconsciously. For example, when trying to recreate my bomb burrito, my hand reached for garlic powder out of reflex, and it was in that moment it clicked that I had put garlic powder in that burrito last time on accident… but it was bomb. And then today, I was scrolling on my Facebook timeline and some people from high school were getting too personal (again). It was so annoying, I was two seconds from sending screenshots to one of my friends so that we could essentially poke fun at these people… but then I took a pause and thought, “Who gives a duck. They want to post this, that’s their business – no need to make it mine.” I then went about my business, sans screenshots, sans gossip, sans ducks.
Here is when it clicked – the book did something! I’m actually listening to Mark Manson’s advice, whether I realized it or not – yay! Cheers to growth, motherduckers!
Ultimately, Mark’s book wasn’t about not giving a duck about anything and living a carefree life, it was quite the opposite. It centered around the fact that you have to give a duck about things, but you should be selective and thoughtful with your ducks. In turn, this thinking then enables you to think about problem solving differently – what do you truly give a duck about? Why do you give a duck? Does it make sense to give a duck?
Question every problem you have like you’re a child aka – “But why?” yourself into oblivion.
It’s stripping down a problem to such bare bones, that you can then face the root of the issue, the true reason why you’re giving a duck. Nine times out of ten, when you strip down a problem like that, you’ll realize how dumb it actually is and how you’re probably responsible for the problem itself. Actually, Mark will tell you that you are responsible for your problems – every single one of them… but that’s a whole other topic.
Anyway… when you start stripping down problems, a realignment of priorities and values can take place. This enables you to shift your outlook and erase pointless problems. Next thing you know, you’ll find yourself actively withholding your ducks from things that no longer align with you. And trust me when I say you will feel really good about that.
Overall, if you’re looking for a read that will give you a bit of a wakeup call, something that will challenge your comfortable way of thinking… You’ve gotta get your hands on this book ASAP.
“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
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**DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, but just someone who’s suffered for years with anxiety and has come out on the other side mostly unscathed. Always seek the advice of a medical professional first.
I first started having severe anxiety problems when I was about 14. I distinctly remember being at my grandmother’s house on vacation with my mom and experiencing what I thought was just shortness of breath, which turned out to be a full blown panic attack. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to be able to say, “Oh yeah, that’s anxiety”. Instead, I ignored it and said my back hurt. For years, the physical symptoms of anxiety plagued me without any real thought towards it. My most common symptom was muscle spasms in my mid and lower back that made breathing nearly impossible. This would strike at seemingly random times, often when I was no longer ‘worried’ or ‘anxious’ and on one occasion took me all the way to urgent care.
The first time I had the can’t-catch-your-breath-pacing-around-like-a-weirdo attack was while working at my local movie theater. I was working the concession stand, which is essentially a long rectangle with a stock room in the back. It was a midday, boring shift but something triggered me. Maybe an ex came with their new beau? Maybe a surprising text message? Who knows, surely I don’t remember now. But what I do remember is pacing, panicking and meticulously counting the concrete blocks that formed the managers/box office right ahead of me. Over and over and over again. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. And again. And again. And again. Why eight? I don’t know honestly. Maybe it was from dance lessons as a kid or maybe something about eight just resonates with me.
But in the end, something had to give. After a breakdown call to my General Physician who referred me to a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed as high-functioning panic disorder and prescribed therapy and medication. I first went to therapy my second year in college when I realized that what I deemed my ‘crazy’ was affecting those around me negatively. I’d had some latent realizations of trauma from my past and it hit me like a freight train at 19. Therapy was amazing for me, but that isn’t a universal experience. From a spasmodic 14 year old girl to now, over a decade later, here I am kicking it with my Anxiety Demon like I would a friend. I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks over the years, so here they are. I hope they can at least provide a reference if not a helpful trick or two to anyone else that suffers.
Learn the early signs
The tightening in your chest, the tunnel vision, the suddenly-fuzzy hearing, the rush of heat to your face and neck. Learning the early signs of an anxiety attack can be the most crucial thing. By learning the trigger signs, you may be able to slow or completely avoid a panic attack. That’s how I was able to truly control my little Anxiety Demon – because I figured out how she operated. As soon as I feel those few rushed heartbeats, I take deep breaths and try to relax. Normally, whatever I’m worked up over doesn’t really matter.
Don’t mix medication and caffeine
I learned this the hard way one night while working at the local haunted house. I took my prescribed medication because I was panicking – then immediately chugged a Monster Energy drink because I was tired. BOY – was that the worst idea. Never in my life have I felt what my body felt during the next hour after drinking that energy drink – I could feel my heart palpitating in slow motion. (In general, high levels of caffenation will make your anxiety worse no matter what, so be careful when engaging with coffee, energy drinks, etc. if you’re not used to it).
Find something simple and stupid that soothes you
When I started out, counting made me feel better for some reason. I have no history of OCD or any other numbers related ailments, but counting my breath, counting the ceiling tiles, counting the steps it took to get around a building mid-attack was comforting and soothing. A lot of relaxation apps will have you count your breath as a wind down activity, so there must be some reasoning to the numbers. I also used to run my hands under cold water, especially if I had an attack while working. I wanted to cool down – bring my senses down – as quickly as possible. I wanted to extinguish the fire roaring in my head and chest and by running cold water on my hands, it almost immediately brought a sense of ‘Oh yeah, I’m back now’.
Just know, as it starts it will also stop
One of the toughest things about anxiety is that you truly do believe that you will die. That you will always feel this way. That you will never be able to have a deep breath ever again. But that’s the thing: anxiety is just a mental block. It will stop, you will breath again, you just have to let it either pass or run it course naturally. You can create a mantra to remind yourself of this during the attacks or just let yourself feel the flow and know that it will end.
Create a safety net
Whether it’s an aromatherapy inhaler, special bubble bath or your favorite food, create a small cache of things that make you feel better or grounded. I carried an aromatherapy inhaler in my purse for years that my grandma gave me after my first panic attack. I still have it and occasionally use it when I’m feeling full of lightning. Certain scents are good on the senses and can help you unwind like lavender, jasmine, bergamot and chamomile.
Download apps or find books to help
These days, I’m sure you find yourself mindlessly scrolling social media, creating an even worse social anxiety experience for yourself like we all do. Sometimes taking a break from social media while staying connected to your phone can help. I’m a personal fan of Candy Crush (proud level 644) or a meditation app like Headspace. Not a phone person? Never fear, books are here! Over the last year, I’ve built quite the arsenal of books to help me understand my issues. From Emotional Detox to First, We Make The Beast Beautiful, there are plenty of books worth checking out about emotions and anxiety.
Talk to someone
The easiest way to come down from a panic attack is to discuss it with someone. When you’re walking someone else through the panic and fears you have, it may be easier to realize how outlandish or wild they are. Whether it’s your therapist, a friend, or a partner/spouse, talking it out can release the hold that your Anxiety Demon has on you. It can ease the tension while allowing you space to breathe.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.
SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as Seasonal Depression.
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — it begins and ends at about the same times every year. For most people, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often do people experience SAD in the warmer months, but it still happens!
Fall and Winter SAD
Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Tiredness or low energy
Spring and Summer SAD
Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Agitation or anxiety
The Mayo Clinic also firmly encourages, “Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own.”
It’s always startling to me how controversial therapy is. Over the years I’ve heard so many people say, “No, therapy is not for me. Tried it once and nope.” or the quip of, “I don’t need therapy” or even therapy being labeled as liberal poppycock is another quip that has the eyes rolling to the back of my head.
I have a very firm belief that anyone who hates therapy simply hasn’t had a good therapist. It’s so important to find the right therapist for you, therapist shopping is a thing! A sucky tiresome thing, I’ve learned in my adult life, but necessary.
The concept of therapy has never been taboo for me, it’s always been a common party of life and conversation – talking about going to see a therapist is as casual as talking about a trip to the mall, or a more accurate comparison is saying you’re going to the doctor for just a checkup to make sure all the parts are running the way they should.
I’ve been seeing a therapist since I was seven or eight years old. My mom had started seeing Suzie shortly after my parents divorced, but my sister and I weren’t brought in for a family session until a few years into my mom’s therapy journey. After one visit with Suzie, we began yearly visits until sometime in high school when it became abundantly clear I wasn’t doing ok and needed more frequent visits. Essentially, I have a habit of bottling up emotions and carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I hate sharing or opening up, because I feel my problems are mine alone to bear, I don’t want to put them on anyone else.
But talking with Suzie became a such an outlet, and I will say – it was an incredible bonus that she was regularly seeing my mom, my sister, and even some other family members. This meant I never had to do a lot of the background family deep dive you usually do with a therapist – she already knew the deep rooted family problems and how they trickled into my psyche. Every visit with her was always this much needed cathartic release of emotion I had kept tightly sealed… she’s a blessing, honestly.
As I got older, moved away for school and what not, I still would hit a point about once a year where I’d be like, “DRIVING UP TO ANDERSON BECAUSE I NEED SUZIE!”
It took probably the second year of me only coming to see her in the dead of winter where she’s like, “Emily, I’m pretty sure you have seasonal depression.”
I was quick to respond, “No, no – I’m sad year round remember?“
But she explained it, that yes overall I struggled with mental health, but my lowest points where I seem to be unable to take it anymore happen the same time every year – nearly without fail.
I still had a hard time agreeing with her, mainly because winter is my favorite time of the year, I love Christmas, I adore the snow (I swear I can smell it coming several hours before it actually snows), and I just love the coziness… there’s no way my favorite season would betray me so much. I couldn’t accept it.
But, she was right – it wasn’t really up to me to dispute the facts.
She also let me know that Indiana has some of the highest seasonal depression rates in the country, ranking number 3 overall!
Above is an image detailing states with the most google searches for seasonal depression – I think this graphic is most interesting because it shows how many people are wondering, “Do I have seasonal depression?” and looking into it; scouring WEB MD to see if their never-ending feeling of meh is normal. As you can imagine, seasonal depression, like clinical depression, often goes undiagnosed.
The ultimate “cause” of seasonal depression is unknown, but the Mayo Clinic says it could be:
- Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
- Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
- Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, treatments for seasonal depression fall into four main categories that may be used alone or in combination:
- Light therapy
- Psychotherapy (this is talk therapy aimed to help develop coping mechanisms)
- Antidepressant medications
- Vitamin D
Light therapy may be the one to catch your eye (it certainly caught mine) and honestly it’s something that I had always been told about and it’s my mom and my aunt’s favorite form. The quick way to get some light therapy in high dosage is simply going tanning, which I know, I know, it’s not good for your skin. But I can tell you right now, when I excessively tanned throughout college, it always seemed to be the boost I needed that day.
That being said – there are non-harmful, safe for your skin, forms of light therapy available! Very Well Mind has compiled a list of the best light therapy lamps of 2020 – check those out and maybe invest, or ask for one for Christmas 😉
Over the years, the way that I’ve tried coping with SAD is to jam pack the winter months with activities. At work it’s the busiest time which helps, I try to make it where I get to see as many family and friends as possible, and then at the tail end of winter (that nasty February bit) is when it’s the absolute worst for me – so I always try to plan a trip abroad during that time. I find that for me the depression creeps in when I have idle hands and a dwelling mind, so I work hard to eliminate as many occasions as possible where the depression could take its hold.
Some days the depression still wins, making it hard for me to even leave my bed; but sometimes I do the winning and have great days – and that’s just the way it is. It’s a balancing act to get all those chemicals in your brain steady 🙂
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Ultimately, Seasonal Depression is real and not something to be taken lightly. It’s serious, don’t ignore it or brush it off – and don’t brush off your friends and family when they tell you they suffer from it. SAD can lead to serious issues like school or work problems, social withdrawal, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or behavior, anxiety, eating disorders, and more.
Seasonal Depression is a real mental health issue, treat it like you would clinical depression, manic bipolar, bulimia, or literally any other mental health issue. Just because you don’t suffer the effects everyday, year round, does not invalidate the severity or the impact it has, or could have, on your life.
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If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.
A true gift from this shithole year was Animal Crossing. Originally released in 2001, AC has been popular amongst audiences for almost two decades; releasing in the US in 2002. With over 40 million units sold worldwide and five spinoff games, there is clearly something for everyone to love and learn from Animal Crossing.
The newest game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released worldwide in the beginning of 2020 on the Nintendo Switch, eight years after the previous AC game release. A perfect storm of social distancing and much needed entertainment brought AC:NH to new heights, with over 5 million downloads in the first month alone. So what’s so great about this game?
First and foremost, I am not an avid video game player nor am I a good video game player. I typically get bored after a few gaming sessions, having only completed two games prior (s/o We Happy Few and BioShock!). But I love AC:NH and have spent 310 hours playing over the last six months. This is what I learned while playing AC:NH.
You embark on a deserted island getaway and are able to create, morph and design your perfect island over time. You have residents that move to your island, along with shops, seasonal events and more to experience. Thanks to your raccoon overlord, Tom Nook, you start the getaway in debt, but don’t worry, you’re able to pay it off quickly.
What I Learned
Daily tasks are necessary – in the game and life.
As a person who’s struggled with heavy depression on and off for a decade, sometimes the essential tasks like cleaning, laundry or eating can be a burden. In AC:NH, your character is rewarded for doing simple things like picking up sticks, clearing weeds or chopping down trees. Being able to make a character push through mundane tasks made it a little easier to force myself to get out of bed and do laundry.
If you’re unhappy, restart.
I spent almost 275 hours building an island which is roughly 12 full days. I received the coveted 5-star rating on accident at around 180 hours and was seriously unhappy. I really didn’t like my island – I started playing without knowing the purpose, creating a mismatched, haphazardly built island that I really wasn’t enjoying. So I restarted. Erased all that work and started over. That same principle can be applied to each of us every single day. If we’re unhappy with something – our attitude, mindset, exercise level, whatever – we can change that. Hit the restart button until you’re at ease and at peace with yourself.
Everything changes and that’s okay.
You can build a perfect utopia from top to bottom, but inevitably something will change that you have no control over – like the seasons. AC:NH is set to recreate the seasons of your hemisphere, changing the available DIY crafts, ingredients and overall landscape of your island. This is not something that can be fought, but merely accepted. I do not enjoy change as a person, but playing this game has surprisingly made it a little easier to accept. (An overexaggerated reaction, but a good example nonetheless).
Sometimes, people you love leave.
When you start your island, there are two other islanders who spawn with you. You’re able to interact with your islanders and swap gifts, etc. throughout the game. However, sometimes your islander will decide that it’s time for them to move on to another island. At first, I hated when islanders would want to leave – because I wanted them to stay with me. But just like in real life, sometimes you have to let people go so that they can be the best versions of themselves. Or alternatively, you need to let them go because they’re not good for you anymore (cough*Curlos*cough).
Just because my island looked different than others, doesn’t mean it’s bad.
A fun perk in AC:NH is that you’re able to visit other islands, deserted or inhabited, to trade or simply see a friend’s design. After watching a few of those 5-star island tours on Youtube though, I was feeling pretty dejected about my shabby island. Who cares? As long as I like my island and it functions for me, then it doesn’t matter. The same principle should apply to regular life too. Who cares if I’m not the same size, personality or type as someone else? It shouldn’t matter as long as I’m happy with myself.
People can be jerks, but that doesn’t mean you should put up with it.
AC:NH contains over 400 characters that you could randomly meet or interact with. The characters are grouped by a personality trait: normal, peppy, sisterly, snooty, cranky, jock, lazy and smug. Snooty and smug villagers can be annoying to deal with, especially when they’re being rude towards other characters. You do have limited control of kicking people off the island if you so choose. There’s no reason to keep villagers or people in your life if they bring you down. Surround yourself with those who bring happiness.
For anyone that’s looking to kill some time as we move towards another potential lockdown, maybe give Animal Crossing: New Horizons a chance. With bright colors, cute characters and a mostly stress-free gameplay, this can be a great escape for anyone experiencing heightened anxiety from lockdowns, COVID-19 or just the day to day stress of life. Spend your time fishing in lakes or growing flowers or diving for sea creatures.
I tend to live life in the gray. Meaning, I’ve never fully felt like an extrovert, nor an introvert, I’m not full blown OCD about things, but I am Type A – it’s my way, or the highway (most of the time) but I guess that’s the Taurus in me. Yet, I do firmly say it’s only my way most of the time, because I actually strive to find compromises with people so everyone can be happy… but one thing I incessantly struggle with?
I usually get worked up over the tiniest of things.
This reverts back to the whole Type A thing, when I have a certain way of doing things, and I communicate this “amazingly perfect” way to others – I assume they will hop on board and think, “Oh yes, wise Emily, your way is spectacular I wish I had always known this manner of doing this task! I will now and forever do it this way!” But the crazy thing is, most people don’t automatically hop on my bus. They can see in the moment how great, efficient, and fluid my way is… but it’s not their vibe. They have their own preferred way and *deep breath* I have to accept that.
Something someone had told me years ago was the 5 by 5 rule:
“If it’s not going to matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes upset by it.“
And honestly, up until like three days ago, this rule always bugged the crap out of me. It would make me want to yank my hair out and scream, “I CAN’T THINK ABOUT FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, MAYBE I WILL STILL BE BITTER THAT THE WRONG FONT WAS USED FOR THAT THING. DON’T TELL ME TO REDIRECT MY ENERGY!”
But this is the thing, little “errors” like spacings, or fonts, or filters, or scheduling genuinely could get me worked up. Like, I have explicitly laid out this yellow brick road for you Dorothy, why are you rollin’ down that red path?!
But you know what? If Dorothy wants to drift and do her own thing, that’s her business.
This whole crazy covid life we live has really put the 5 by 5 Rule in perspective. I can tell you right now that any of the stressing I did in 2015 has no business in my 2020 mind, and I can only assume that 2025 will have its own problems and its own blessings (trying to stay positive here).
The world is already so messy right now, don’t let the mess take over your head. Especially with the current happenings, the scary unknowns, don’t waste your time stressing on small things – focus on the big picture, the stuff that matters, and when the little things start to get under your skin, put the 5 by 5 Rule as the background vibe in your mind and turn your immediate focus to a tangible beauty for a few minutes.
A tangible beauty being something like absorbing the sunshine (even just sitting in front of your window), a quick laydown in your comfy bed, a slow walk around the neighborhood… find a tangible beauty in life to replace the current irritations attempting to dig roots into your skin.
Don’t feed the beast – it’s so, so easy to feed it. But imagine what feeding the beast could do, with each angry bone you toss it, the thing grows and grows, and what does that do to your inner child? Have you ever seen a child excited for the company of a terrifyingly rude and ruthless beast? One that could scream at them for the littlest of things?
Nope? Didn’t think so.
Don’t misunderstand, the big thing I’m not saying is “Don’t stress – ever!” Stress is inevitable, being totally carefree is hard and anyone who seems carefree all the time… or says they’re carefree all the time… is probably full of BS. But what they’re doing right (maybe) is not sweating the small stuff, they only stress about the things worth stressing about.
Ultimately, when you catch yourself getting worked up and overwhelmed, think about the 5 by 5 Rule, yes – but mostly choose where your energy goes.
Sometimes it’s as simple as firmly saying to yourself, “I’m not going to give into this stress. I’m not going to give into this situation. This is not my vibe, this is not worth my precious time and energy.“
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Cult-hit from BBC America, Orphan Black, is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, hands down (& I watch a dumb amount of tv). I purchased the first two seasons on a whim at Target one day and binged them the very same weekend. Most importantly, after a five season run, the show ended in a good way, which is a lot to say since most long-running shows usually end in a dumpster fire that pisses off fans and critics alike. I continually return to this show, year after year, to rewatch and fall in love with the characters all over again. It also the first show I recommend and loan to friends looking for something new. Here’s why you should give this sci-fi series a chance (explained without spoilers).
1. Tatiana Maslany is the HBIC
Orphan Black’s lead actress Tatiana Maslany plays a whooping 14 different characters throughout the show, oftentimes appearing in the same scene with multiple versions of herself. Not only that, but the characters will pretend to be other characters in the show which is a major mindf*ck. For example: Sarah will pretend to be Rachel and it’s obvious that it’s Sarah’s character. Thanks to a great continuity coach that assists on every episode to make sure that the movements, speech patterns and overall character vibe is correct, this show is mind blowing. When watching the show, you forget that it’s just one actress playing all of the parts because Tatiana is so unbelievably talented. From accents to voice pitch to style and characteristics, she is hands down one of the best actresses of this century.
2. Endless Twists and Turns
This show, while an emotionally heavy investment, has an endless amount of twists and turns. The first episode starts with a bang and that momentum carries all the way through five seasons. Orphan Black is hard to describe because it deals with almost every theme including: cults, religion, science experiments, cloning, infertility, LGBTQ+, familial bonds, body modification, nature vs. nurture, military, drugs, body autonomy and most importantly the idea of a family, created by choice. OB does not shy away from hard topics like rape, abuse, self-harm, substance abuse or miscarriages – which controversially or not – can make this show emotionally hard to watch at times.
While there are male characters in the show (S/O Felix, Art and Paul), the show is heavily female led. The protagonist is Sarah Manning with the story following her life as she tries to make amends for her dark past. The main villains also are primarily female, which is an interesting dynamic to see. Sometimes the female villain trope is too played out; too emotional, too vengeful, too easy to understand and defeat. Each of the female characters in the show are unique, strong, defiant and not bound by cursory design.
4. Realistic Characters with Realistic Reactions
So often nowadays, everyone has a super power or extra something to help them through hard situations. This show only has one character that is a little unordinary – Sarah Manning’s daughter Kira. Everyone else for the most part is utterly normal. Allison lives a suburban soccer mom life. Cosima is a scientist attending university. Rachel is a career woman. Sarah is a single mom trying to win back her daughter. Beth was a police officer. Normal people in the face of something absolutely horrendous and abnormal – yet they surpass the circumstances regardless. The character arcs in the show are a sight to see. Paul, a character you love to hate from the beginning, has one of the best character arcs of the entire show and it is heartbreaking. Over the course of five seasons, each character grows in their own way.
5. Cinematic Techniques
One of the most incredible things that Orphan Black does is stitch together scenes involving two characters played by Tatiana Maslany. And I’m not talking just having two of them in a room together utilizing jump cuts like The Parent Trap (1998). These scenes have the characters fighting each other, dancing together, comforting each other and singing together; which again, as one woman playing all of the characters – that’s a feat. Tatiana did have a stunt double to work with in the scenes, who she often referred to as the unsung hero of the show – Kathryn Alexandre. Cinematically, this show would have been so much different without the use of the Technodolly. Technodolly’s memorize a scene and its own movements so that a scene can be shot multiple times then stitched together. OB’s use of the technodolly paved the way for other sci-fi shows like What Happened To Monday (2017).
6. Found Families
One of the biggest takeaways from Orphan Black is the sense of family. Sarah starts out as a misguided single mom, formerly an orphan, who is just trying to run her next scam. She falls into a wild crazy situation which she has absolutely no reason to get involved in – but does anyways. A once lonely-forgotten shit of a person becomes a sister, a mother, a lover and friend. Perfect strangers come together under circumstance to create a true family – something that they never had before. I am a firm believer in found families – families that you create based on your own needs and a shared sense of community which this show emulates perfectly.
Orphan Black can be emotionally heavy and may not be a good fit for everyone, so please watch at your own speed / emotional ability. All seasons can be streamed for free on Amazon Prime Video or you can rent them if you do not have an Amazon membership. It could also be streamed on Netflix EU, as of fall 2019.
I’m a sucker for cliches that can blanket statement a situation. I find that cliches have the same function as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, except a bit more practical. For instance, something’s happened and you don’t know what to say, just give a sympathetic shrug and throw in, “All that glitters isn’t gold,” “What goes around, comes around,” or “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” But while I dig a good cliche, I also fully acknowledge that some are trash.
Like hold the phone, sticks and stones… I’m sorry, what?
If you ever think about saying “Sticks and stones…” to someone, of any age, just stop. Don’t even think of finishing the sentence. All this stupid sentence does is dismiss the feelings of the person you’re speaking to. I’ll say it right now, words hurt, and they can hurt bad.
Imagine you’re in a situation getting bullied, maybe it’s about something like the size of your nose or ears, your skin color, or maybe even the clothes on your back. Imagine getting bullied relentlessly by shit kids, imagine experiencing this, and the only thing you’re told on how to deal is either, “Oh, they’re just mean because they have a crush on you!” or the god awful cliche mentioned above about stupid sticks and stones.
It’s just wrong, it’s so wrong. Words have power, we should stop gaslighting people into believing otherwise. I wish I was taught at a younger age to call people out when they said hurtful things instead of being taught to just ignore them. Can you imagine what kind of place the world could be if we started calling out the haters earlier on in life?
Oof, gives me chills just thinking about a society that beholds fruitful communication.
Everyone and their brother has said this, but I’ll say it again – communication is so important. It’s vital to understand that when someone tells you that something you said hurt them, don’t fight them on this, just don’t. You cannot control the feelings and emotions of others. All you can do is accept their feelings at face value and try to earnestly understand where they’re coming from.
I’m over this whole, “They’re just words, we were only kidding!” thing, it’s not cute. Dismissing the feelings of others, essentially calling their emotions invalid… it’s not a good look.
When someone confides in you, opens up and tells you that your words hurt… embrace that dialogue. Ask them what exactly was said that hurt, and if after finding out you still don’t understand why it hurt them – be honest and ask them how you can do better. This is good communication, and trust me I get it, deep communication is hard and a lot of people suck at it – myself included!! But when you have the conversation and acknowledge the feelings of others as valid, you’re on a higher path, a higher frequency, of basic human decency.
It can be so groundbreaking once you fully acknowledge that words hold power, they can hurt, and you’re not being too sensitive. In fact, stop putting the word “too” in front of “sensitive”, your feelings are not too much, nor are they too little – they just simply are. What can also be groundbreaking is to not only accept the negative and toxic power of word, but to simultaneously embrace the positive uplifting power it has too. It’s clear that other people’s words can hurt you and that their love and compliments can lift you… but what about your own words? Do you realize that how you talk to yourself also has a great impact your mental health?
In a book I’m currently reading*, the author writes on self-talk and the importance of acknowledging your “inner-child.” This term, inner-child, is rooted deep into psychology and associated with a person’s potential, creativity, and expression – all of which are aspects influenced from their childhood. It’s also the idea that the child version of yourself lives on in your psyche and still has influence over your day to day life within your emotions and where you find your common comforts.
That above passage from the book really hit home, it had me thinking not only how I would talk to my younger self, but in a more tangible sense I thought, “Would I say the things I tell myself to my kid sister?” and before I could even complete that thought, I already knew the answer. The way I talk to myself sometimes can be so intense and so hurtful, not only would I never talk to my little sister that way… I wouldn’t even talk to burnt popcorn that way.
Food for thought: If we wouldn’t talk to others a certain way, why in the world should we talk to ourselves in such a manner?
Just like we need to wear a mask, just like we need to vote… we need to be kind to ourselves. There is only one person we are with at all hours of the day and night, there is only one person we can’t escape from, there is only one person we can’t ever shut out… and that’s ourselves.
So guys, this is a friendly reminder to treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve, it’s your birthright.
This article is the conclusion to a journey I began years ago. I’ve shared some personal stories about domestic abuse, some destructive coping mechanisms I used, and now it is time to talk about the peace I found after it all. I kept reiterating in my previous articles how we are not the victims forever, and I stand by that to this day. I wouldn’t be where I am without these humbling experiences. I grew my own wings that my gut was trying to tell me to do for years. With the help of my friends and family and self-determination, I was able to be the woman I always knew I was.
Initially, I was scared. I had no money, no motivation, and felt like my career was in the hole, and I had to block out a lot of people in my life. But what was really happening was that I was saving money, building stronger relationships with my close friends, and truly focusing on myself for once. I found myself developing a skin routine and a forming a healthy diet. I planned my future. I went back to college and now am on a path to graduate in a year.
What also became a constant in my life was spirituality. I never had been a religious person and I’m still not. Yet, I found spirituality really explained and helped me with a lot of things that have happened in my life. We all say cliche things like “everything happens for a reason” and “there are no such things as coincidences.“ Heck, I truly believe all that now! I believe people are put into and removed from your life and it’s all apart of the journey. Some people are not meant to be along for the ride and that’s okay. I came to the conclusion that I could find peace in knowing the things I can control vs the things I cannot and should not force. I have everything I need in my life to make the difference I’ve always wanted to make.
I made a vow to not let another person, especially a man, ruin or disrupt my inner peace. Yes, there are days where that was very hard to do, but ultimately, I am happy without the stress and chaos. I truly am blessed to have gotten to know the side of a man that I never thought I’d see again. I had been given a gift in the form a gentle, kind, selfless, respectful human. My boyfriend was put into my life and I have cherished every waking moment with him. He is a significant factor that has played a huge part in my searching for peace. He helped me realize that just because I was a victim and enabler before, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again and that is such a relieving feeling to know I’m still able to love and to be loved.
For the women or men that have walked in these shoes, there is happiness and success resting on the other side of this hill. Peace is found in many forms: a loving friend’s smile, a cup of coffee in the morning, and instead of thinking about your troubling past….you think about your exciting dreams, a week secluded in the woods watching the sunset, connecting with a religion or your spirituality, starting a self care routine, or even writing about your journey and being able to appreciate the things currently around you that you never thought would come from it. We all deserve peace and you will find it.
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