Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Anxiety and Panic Attacks


This past week has not been a fun one for me, to say the very least. The start of this one is better, but not by much. Anxiety has a way of doing that to me. I'm on edge all of the time, waiting for the next wave to come my way. 

Mostly, it's been physical. I feel like someone has taken a belt and tied it around my chest, tightening and loosening it at random moments. I feel the same sort of nerves l do before I'm about to do this major presentation, except for no discernible reason whatsoever. Everything will be tense: my shoulders, my chest, the muscles in my eyebrows. And then it will hurt when I breathe, and the more I try to breathe, the shorter my breath feels. Yet sometimes, the panic hits me all at once, and I have to go into a bathroom stall to wait it out. Then, it doubles me over and I hyperventilate. That's only happened once this week, but it was exhausting.
 
Usually, a panic attack happens when the thoughts in my head too much. They make me freeze up like a computer with too many browsers open. This panic attack seemed random, but I believe it was a delayed reaction to my anxiety over driving to school by myself for the first time (I was feeling one come on the road, but I did everything I could to suppress it, because obviously having a panic attack on the road is really, really dangerous. It was pretty much the only time I was able to do that, though).

I've been getting some of the thoughts too. They used to be really bad when I was younger, with different thoughts of how minor things would lead to some cataclysmic, horrible catastrophe. I'm not sure what's coming first in the situation (I guess it's like the chicken and the egg), but it still sucks. 

The actual anxiety part is one thing, but it has quite an awful byproduct: my insomnia, which leads to my sleepiness during the day. It's such a frustrating feeling to stare up at the ceiling with bleary eyes trying (no, praying) to fall asleep, especially knowing the result that the lack of sleep will have. It's even worse when, as I try to fall asleep, I think of something and can't stop thinking about it and then it's even worse. The next day, I'll drink some tea to keep me awake, and that will work for the next two periods until the caffeine wears off and I crash. Literally, I crash within a number of minutes. When that happens, my eyelids become bowling balls and it's a struggle to keep them open. They flutter and as they do, my vision starts to swim. Things start to move around the room and duplicate. Every other muscle becomes heavy too, so I can't get up. It is a battle of wills that I inevitably lose and my body forces me to sleep until something will wake me up. Then the cycle repeats. I literally have no control over my body in those moments. Insomnia has been my enemy long before my mental health problems started, but still. Driving to school has helped me gain hours of precious sleep time, but this still happens.

I'm not quite sure why these past two weeks have evoked these feelings of panic more than any other time has. I have a few guesses, but I'm not quite sure. It doesn't actually quite matter, because either way that it sucks. But that's what anxiety is.





Saturday, March 29, 2014

Seventeen: Not Sixteen, Not Eighteen

Yesterday was my birthday, once again. I am officially one year older. Whoop de doo. I don't feel like I'm one year older; in fact, I feel like these days have just been other days, no different from the ones that I have been living when I was sixteen.
"Sixteen going on seventeen!"
 
Seventeen is a boring age, though. It's not sixteen and it's not eighteen, but that awkward age in the middle. When I was sixteen, I was in Florida celebrating my Sweet Sixteen. Sixteen was more exciting because everyone made it so. It's a bigger age in our culture (for whatever reason). It's also the age when I was legally allowed to apply for my learner's permit, although I did wait.
 
Eighteen will also be a big deal, I imagine. An even bigger one. It won't have the same ornate celebrations, but still. I'll be a legal adult. I won't be able to drink or gamble, but legally, I'll be on my own and be able to do just about everything else. It will be the year that I go off to college (although not right away). It is the year that my mom is anticipating now, why she is having such a hard time with seventeen.
 
My mom is completely devastated over the fact that I'm seventeen now. Somehow, sixteen wasn't as bad for her: she still had two years left with me. Yet now that I'm seventeen, she knows that she only has one year left with me (well, one year and a few months, actually). And that's hitting her hard, even harder than her own fiftieth birthday hit her. My father seems to be pretty neutral about it (at least from what I've seen, but I'm sure he's different when he's alone with my mother and he'll be freaking out when it actually sets in that I'm leaving).
 
As for me? It feels like I'm just seventeen. I'm sure eighteen will feel different, although it is only when I set off to college that I truly feel independent.

And just that
 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dealing with the Cold

It has been a cold, cold winter. One of the worst ones in my region in years actually (the second snowiest, second coldest. Considering how bad this one was, I wonder what the first one was like). It's supposed to be spring right now, but it continues to be cold anyway somehow. The wind practically blew me away today, and, even though it's not nearly as cold as it was, it's still way to be spring. I should be wearing dresses right now and staring at the beautiful flowers, but it's not even close to that. There's even some snow left on the ground at my school. Punxsutawney Phil did more than look at his shadow, I can tell you that.
 
There are quite a number of things I learned over this cruel winter, but one of the most important things I learned was how to stay warm. Or the importance of this. I learned to always have gloves in my coat pockets. I also learned how painful it was just having a coat and no scarf and hat and also, how important it to keep my jacket zipped up. This lesson continues to remain important.
 
This cold winter has also incentivize me to run faster. The private school that I'm going to now has an open campus, so the different classes I'm in are located in different buildings. Major bummer. So I needed to run faster to dodge the cold (this time does refer to the times when I was in school this winter, which admittedly wasn't a lot).
 
So I coped doing that.
 
I also learned to stay inside most of the time, especially with all of the snow days. I know that's probably not the best thing, but it's true. When I was younger, I used to love to play in the snow, but the practice lost its charm. Since I am fortunate enough to be in a house with heating, I stayed inside and learned how to find things for myself to do.
 
Most importantly, I just have to keep going forward. That's how to best deal with the cold, by one day at a time. This cold weather will definitely help make summer look more appealing, and I'll enjoy even the hot weather.
 
In the mean time, I am dealing with the cold.
 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Break



 
Not exactly...
I have spent two weeks and one day on Spring Break. It's practically been a summer, except not nearly as long. Being as I am in private school, I still had one despite the incredible amount of snow days that I had. It is a privilege that public school kids won't have this year.


This is the longest spring break that I have ever had. It has definitely been a busy spring too given my internship and various college visits. I've had so much fun, though, and it's felt like a mini vacation. It was so long that it didn't feel like it was going to end, although of course I knew that it would have to as all spring breaks have to. It was long and rolling, but towards the end came the inevitable dread of knowing that I would have to return to school.  
Unfortunately, this spring break has mostly resembled winter, at least in terms of temperature. For this reason, I didn't get to enjoy the beautiful spring that is supposed to come with Spring Break.

Spring Break always offers me the time to relax and think about something other than school. That's always a nice change. It's a breather, a way to catch up on rest and gain some composure. In the past, it's included vacations, but who am I to complain?
 
Alas, all good things have to come to an end and that includes Spring Break. These feelings of dread always come when I have to return to school, although they are not as bad this year as other years.
At least I can assure myself that I only have to worry about going to school two months and four days after this one. That's very doable.



Saturday, March 22, 2014

What is Art?

Van Gogh (duh)
What is art? There is the technical definition, of course, of art: "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power" What does that even mean, though. It is so subjective, what people consider beautiful and pleasing to the eye. By that definition, it doesn't even have to be pleasing to the eye. Art is whatever you consider art, essentially. My mother and I were having a debate on the train on our way back from an art museum, with her laughing at many of the exhibits in the contemporary art section of the museum.
Picasso

Some things are obvious to most people, things like landscape scenes, scenes of love, etc. that are realistically drawn in a way that no one else can draw them. Then there are more unpleasant scenes, scenes of war and crucifixion and the like, that may be hard to look at, but are just as skillfully drawn.

Yet the definition of art has shifted for centuries. Van Gogh is considered an artist by everyone now, priceless. Back in his time, however, his strokes were too rough to be valuable. Art had to be realistic and smooth. Over time, it shifted to whatever was considered pretty essentially. There is no baseline for what is considered art, no set criteria it seems. I'm not an artist myself, only an admirer, so I don't know what rubric the professionals use to determine how one piece of art is better than another, but there doesn't seem to be any.

Contemporary art has been reviled for centuries; that is, every artist who decided to push against the norm, has been denigrated for it. Abstract art, surrealism, anything outside of the norm has faced some criticism. Everyone who has tried to be different has been told he or she is "not really an artist". Artists need to take risks. Sometimes, those risks may not pay off, but it is what it is. 
Still, it's undeniable that those types of art do require some skill. Not everyone can do it. That's what makes it special, obviously.

Pollack
What about art that arguably requires a little less skill? Art that barely has anything on it at all, like minimalism? Certain modern art doesn't seem to possess a lot of it. What's so hard about gluing a bunch of cardboard boxes together or painting a canvas white? I know a lot of the time it's more complicated than it looks, obviously. I used to think Jackson Pollack wasn't really an artist, but then I realized it looked more complicated than everyone gave it credit for. Obviously, Pollack had to worry about the right color combinations and making sure all of the colors stayed separate from each other. He's certainly not in the league of other artists, but it's still something, I think. 

Agnes Martin, minimalist
Then, of course, is the fact that these people did it first. These "contemporary artists" were the first one to call what they did art, the first one to arrange things in a certain way. They thought of it first. They were the ones with that insight. Sure, maybe you and I could have done it, but we didn't. I am a little annoyed these people get galleries when there are, in my opinion, more skilled artists, but what do I know? 

No one can really determine art, as much as we all want to. As much as certain "art" hardly seems like art and makes our blood boil, it is if some people say it is. Or maybe it exists in that awkward space where it both is and isn't art at the same time. Who is anyone to define art? As long as people are inspired, as long as they are animated, does it matter?

Of course, who am I to say? Countless of more qualified people have been having this conversation for decades, and none have been able to reach a proper conclusion, either.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Giving Yourself the Freedom to Write Poorly

One of the most difficult things in writing is giving yourself to write poorly. Giving yourself the permission to write a really bad first draft or a bad blog post (ha ha, I've been writing a lot of those lately, I admit). It's what you need in order to advance as a writer over all.

Sometimes, I just need to get my thoughts out on paper before I organize it, and express my thoughts in their true, unadulterated form. This requires the release of writing sans any real form or organization. This pretty much equals really, really bad writing.

It's even fun to write poorly. It's like throwing paint against a wall. You don't worry about the consequences or how messy it is, but all you have to focus on is the release of throwing it. Then, afterwards, you can look and see what patterns formed on said walls. It doesn't have to be that chaotic, though. Sometimes, it's more like tinkering with words, playing with different forms. It can be really cool or I could make an awful concoction.

Not all of my first drafts are even bad, though. Most of them just could be better. Every once in a while, though, I get a real turd of a writing and sometimes, no amount of revision can fix it. Sometimes, my piece doesn't get better after a revision. My second drafts can be equally as bad as my first drafts. At that point, I usually give up because I figure that I either need time away from the piece or that it's just time to throw in the towel and move on.

Poorly written pieces often force me to think about why the piece was bad and how I can improve the next one. They force me to examine my writing more. It also gives me something to compare my better writing too. Sometimes, if the idea is good and the writing is bad, it helps me come one step closer to refining the piece.

It also helps me outside of my writing. It gives me the permission to be human. Not all of my pieces can be wonderful after all. These bad pieces teach me some humility, which is especially useful if I've been coming out with a lot of really good ones.

Giving yourself the permission to write poorly as a writer is so important. Not everything you write can be a masterpiece. Even the best of writers produce these every once in a while. We might as well make use of them

Monday, March 17, 2014

College Visits


College visits become inevitable at some point or another. If you plan on going, you're going to have to embark on them no matter the distance. My mother's philosophy is the sooner, the better. My first college visit was in sophomore year, and many others have followed this year. I've been on this college journey ever since, taking the SAT, feeling the emotional ups-and-downs and
 
The actual college visit, however, is the real icing on the cake. It shows true commitment and it often takes the most. Most of the colleges that I'm looking at are quite the distance from where I live. Although they are all within driving distance, it still takes multiple hours to get there. Sometimes, it can be more efficient to visit multiple colleges in a row on a college road trip (which I have done) in one week or a few days, usually on a day off or a break.
 
It also tells the most about the actual college. Statistics and pretty pictures don't explain the full story about a college. It doesn't say what the people will be like or the food or the ambience. It's just not enough. The only way to know the truth about a college is to actually visit that college.
 
Some people believe this should be done only after an acceptance. However, it does pay to show interest ahead of time. With all of the colleges I'm interested in, it means I have a lot of work to do.
 
Luckily, I've already seen most of them. This week, my mom and I have been finishing up our search.
 
Unfortunately, the students were on Spring Break. There were still tours going on (done by the college students who also happened to live in the town nearby), but the college was vacant. Also, this meant that none of the dining halls were open, so I didn't get the real food experience. But I got to see the buildings, all of them (not just the super-nice ones they show on the brochures). I also got to see the town nearby, so I got to see what was and wasn't off-campus. I could definitely see myself going to college there, although its exclusivity and price will make that difficult. Still, it's worth a shot and it was fun to visit.
 
I do admit that it gets tiresome after a while. After a certain period of time, a lot of the colleges really do start to blend together. Same cramped doors, same bragging admissions officers, same eager sorts of people. Sometimes, even the buildings start to look the same. All colleges are different in their own way, though, and that's what's most important.
 
Oh well. It's just a part of the package, I'm afraid.