Sunday, October 30, 2011


Sleepovers. That age old tradition rife with blaring music and chitchat and more shit than one could fit in their mouth. A sleepover provides a chance to unwind and laugh with a friend and forget about your worries (for me, at least until the morning). Sleepovers, that thing that I need more of. That thing that I will look fondly on and will allow me to say to my children, "I don't have too many stories of being a bad girl [that extend beyond computer exploits and things conceived by friends and family more adventurous than I] but at least I had some fun while I could."

Okay so I've had a long stretch without them. Long as in a couple of months (that's including ones at my shorehouse and my aunt's house). I had forgotten how much fun they were and how refreshing they are. This weekend I kind of O.D.ed on them being as my parents were out of town.

It felt so nice just staying up as long as I could, just talking or eating crap or whatever. It felt like an escape from the real world for a little bit.

Of course one has to come back. One always has to come back. Just as the sleepovers are over, my parents' vacation is over. It will be nice to reunite but of course we will go back to our worlds of worry and that will not be so nice.

Sleepovers are a time to spend time with friends and to lose one's self, particularly if that is in a party session. One is allowed to be totally serious and to be totally fun at the same time. When I have sleepovers, I know that I am allowed to have fun with that person but I know that that person totally will have my back (and yes that does apply to my aunt too because I do sleep over there quite a bit).

I have to say it's a unique feeling waking up on their couch, or in my sleeping bag, or seeing them next to me on the ground and feeling the memories of the other night rush back to me. And then waking up half asleep and eating breakfast/ attempting to form a conversation with it.

That's not to say that it didn't get serious. It did, but it was also fun at some parts of it too. I have to say that I lamely fell asleep in the range of 11:30 to 11:45, which is unusual to me (well I was bored at my aunt's house because I didn't like the movie and my sister and aunt fell asleep so that at least isn't too bad).

I know that Saturday afternoon when I finally had to leave my friend's house, I was seriously depressed at having to go (that and the fact that I had only brought a sweater to her house. Hmm, maybe I could talk about how I'm experiencing my first white Halloween in another post).

In summary, sleepovers are pretty freaking awesome.

Sleepovers. That one time to lose one's self and to just have a blast for as long as you can stay up. I'll have to make sure to schedule more in my future.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The light is blaring, hot and heavy on your shoulders. You do your best to go over your lines again as you can hear the teacher and the others shuffle about. You can't see their faces but just a sea of black. At this point, you can hardly breathe. You force a smile and make sure to tuck your strands of hair behind your ear and take a breath but it's futile.

I'm not an actress. The closest thing I get outside of class is when I feel my characters in a scene I'm planning to write in a book so strongly that I say what I imagine them saying aloud. So no, I don't come close to those kids in there. Acting was always just something fun for me, not worthy of my commitment but something to do every once in a while. My real passion, of course, was taken up by another beauty that unfortunately was not offered as an elective.

Usually it's cool. It's fun to play the improv games and to watch other people. But me up there... Well, things are a little different then.

Today was my day to perform the monologue. The monologue, the one that we had been preparing all the way up to that point.

Usually I can get into character and usually I feel disconnected public speaking as if my mouth is moving and someone else is talking. Usually I feel connected to the character and can understand them. Unfortunately, this was not the case this time around. My mind was painfully in line with my mouth and I had to force my character to come to me.

So when my mind drew a blank, I was stuck.  Stuck. The words were trapped in my throat and the silence was suspended above my head. I was stuck and I couldn't even ask for a line because I knew it was being graded. Eventually I stumbled my way to the next line but it was definitely noticeable and I felt terrible. I could barely stand there when they commented on how I did and I wanted to go and run to the nearest corner. Unfortunately, I couldn't do that either.

Usually, acting is the easy class where I feel nice and relaxed but this was not the case today. I'm sure that it wasn't that big of a deal to everyone else but I felt as if my mistake had been branded into me. And then, of course, someone followed after me who was absolutely excellent.

On the bright side, I don't have to keep repeating it around the house anymore. On the not so bright side... I'll be worrying about it for weeks even when the problem is long over. Oh well.

I'm sure this has happened to many a good actor or actress. Or maybe not. Maybe it just happened to me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


The smell of the locker room assails you like the balls that will later assail your clumsy body. There is a combined scent of perfume so heavily applied it makes you want to gag, a slight hint of B.O. and flowery-smelling deodorant. When you enter, you see girls in various states of dress gossiping and chattering idle chitchat. Some girls might be smoothing their hair and gym clothes, virtually ready to leave but holding back. If you come early enough, you will see the girls from the previous period sitting on the benches, applying makeup and standing by the door.

Of course, I'm sure the guys' locker room is a completely different story. The path to the girls' locker room does not require passing the guys' locker room so I don't know what the high school version of a boys' locker room would be. The middle school one... God, that was nasty. And when I mean nasty, I mean nasty. A wave of Axe (is that supposed to be sexy and smell good? That's stuff is freaking foul) and B.O triple what's in the girls' locker room. It would come in waves so strong they could knock someone out who wasn't accustomed to the smell (I can only imagine what it would be like actually inside).

Unfortunately, the locker rooms are only one part of the evil that is gym class. No, it gets worse.

Then, after taking the time to change, having to sit in that role line and listen to boring directions that you couldn't even understand half of the whole time. Or you might forget to change and be told how you have to make it up and soon (while scampering with your book and reading the rest of the period).

But no, no. If it was just that then maybe I could survive. Unfortunately, it isn't. After that comes the second half of the period. The part where I have to actually do something.

I usually just zone it out and run with my team from the end of the field and back. It's like I dissociate or something, because it's not like I could survive it if my mind was fully aware of my surroundings.

On top of that, I have to deal with this stupid-ass boy. Now this kid looks like he could be in elementary school which is probably why he is such an annoying little shithead to begin with (a sufferer of Short Man Syndrome or, as I like to say, Tiny Dick Syndrome). He usually taunts and yells at me the whole period but at this point he's just background noise. I also have to occasionally deal with the gym teacher yelling at the girls on my team to "try harder!". For the purposes of this post, I will call him Tiny.

This is what the average gym class is like for me:

Some jock girl or some guy has the ball in their hand or near their foot. Some other jock girl/ guy intercepts it and it comes flying near my head. At this point, my head snaps up and I halfheartedly try to get it and I fail.

Tiny: "C'mon, Mandals (man + sandals = mandals)!"

Now, if it weren't for him, I would be a simple shadow to the others. To the eyes of the other girls on my team and the guys, I am not even something that comes in their radar. Of course I ignore him but again he interjects.

Tiny: "Come on! God, what are you a fucking retard, Mandals?"

Me: "No, I just don't give a shit. Leave me alone." Sometimes I don't say anything but still this kid will not shut up. Sometimes his friend joins in too but leaves me alone in my acting class.

Of course, I dissociate more thinking random thoughts and sometimes thinking of scenes one of the books I am writing or planning on writing.  Occasionally, I am forced to run somewhere and when I do I tell myself it burns calories.

And then everyone goes over and hands in their team belts so I know that class is mercifully over.

Oh and of course it will take a freaking miracle for them to stop gym class. They give us the minimum amount of time to change and even then the bell rings just as I take my shirt off in the locker room. We have to get every minute in.

One time, they made us play even as it was spitting. It continually got worse but still we played. Only as it was pouring did they finally let us stop and we ran for the door. My hair, which I work so hard to straighten in the mornings, was totally curled and I was soaking wet. I couldn't even see out of my glasses. Some girls' mascara was streaming. Getting in, there was a loud uproar of complaint. When I went to my next class, people asked if I had just gone swimming.

As you might have guessed, I had gym today. It sucked as usual, just as it will continue to suck throughout high school. Of course, it was pretty sucky today but at least I didn't sweat or freeze my ass off.

I don't even understand the point. If I want to be fat and obese, I should have the right to. I can simply pay higher health insurance when I'm older. Anyway, I really don't see how that affects my learning.

My parents are all like, "Gym is the only exercise you get." To that, I say that I only really exercise during the fitness testing and the other times I'm just there being nagged. It's almost like serving detention but it's worse (I've served detention once so I have experience). I'd say that walking/ running up the three flights of stairs in my school are a much more effective form of exercise than gym. Anyway, with that argument, shouldn't I not be required to take them if I pass the tests?

If you want gym, you should be allowed to take it. If you're like me, however, then another elective would be of much more use. I actually think that it would be better for all of the serious jocks out there not to have to deal with preppy girls and nerds like me but be able to play a decent game. And of course, we would benefit from not having them yell at us.

The gym teachers would argue otherwise but I suppose they would do so because their jobs depend on it (kind of like why cops support banning pot).

And every other day for three years of high school (you take health sophomore year at my school)? Really? That's just ridiculous.

Basically, gym is an evil, evil subject. I actually would rather take a math test than sit through gym and that's saying something.

Maybe all of those like-minded people can pass an anti-gym bill when we're older. For now, we will have to suffer alongside countless other poor American kids who are forced to endure this terrible class.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Every human being tries to attain it and none of them do. Some comes to terms that they will never achieve it, some give up and live their lives bitter, and some... Some people keep searching for it their whole lives and never find it. That thing, of course, is perfection.

This perfection can be towards anything... The media encourages perfection in looks; some parents encourage perfection in intelligence. For some unfortunate individuals like myself, the call for perfection encompasses everything. There is a word here for people like me and that is "perfectionist" (and "sufferers of anxiety disorders" but that title only came for me later). It's a terrible affliction to have and I'm only just beginning to heal from it.

It's okay to work hard but sometimes it can be just too much. Sometimes it can reach the point where it's obsession. Where you feel like a failure if you don't meet all of the goals you set for yourself. That's what it was for me anyway, and that's what it's like for one of my friends now.

And that's when the quest for perfection becomes a problem. While it oftens means higher grades, it also can mean lower self-esteem and a lower quality of life.

Perfection is impossible and anyone who says otherwise is lying. There is no such thing as perfection, especially to a human being. Perfection is just a pretty idea for a state no one will ever reach.  Maybe I didn't think it was perfection at the time but it was... I would have been happy at nothing less than perfection and even then I wouldn't have been happy. I mean not even Einstein knew everything so what made me think that I had to?

Finally I reached my breaking point. I looked at my life and I thought a lot about everything that was going on. I asked myself, "Tori, would you be happy with the way you are living your life if you found out you were going to die?" I realized that I wouldn't. I was living my life full of regret, stress and hopelessness; I didn't take risks because I was too afraid to fail. I hated myself and everything I was doing and the direction in which my life was headed. So I set out to change that. I'm not saying that it was easy or even that it happened overnight. I took a long, painful road before I reached self- acceptance but in the end, I did reach it.

Now this state of perfection, for my friend at least, did concern a grade. It concerned grades for me too (but also much more) With that above decision, I made a choice this year. I decided to live first and get good grades second. So far I've been getting the best of both worlds in that regard.

Grades are letter and numbers. Perhaps ones that will get me to college but... At the end of the day, just letters and numbers. My life? My sanity? Now that is something much more substantial. College might pave the way for my future, but what's the point of a better future if I've doomed myself to a screwed up life? School might teach knowledge but more importantly it teaches ways to cope with failure, stress and life in general. All of which would be lost on me if I continued to live as a perfectionist.

What I'm trying to say is that it isn't worth it. Perfection is impossible but happiness isn't. At the end of the day, what's worth more?

Friday, October 21, 2011


Friend. One syllable. A word so simple in its sound that one could blink and miss it. Aristotle called a friend "a single soul dwelling in two bodies". Some people toss the word out like party favors and for some... For some, one must have to earn the term and feel a deep-seated connection for it to be bestowed.

Friend. I may have said the word easily when I was younger but now it is a more reluctant title I bestow. Now, when I call someone a friend, it is because I hold them in a high enough regard for me to see them as someone who I can connect to. I've been told that this is too high of a standard and sometimes I agree. Yet then there are the other times...

Friends are there to pick us up when we fall because we all fall. Friends are there to make us laugh and to cry with us. Friends, true friends that is, is someone that a person can pour their heart out to- their naked, exposed, and sometimes ugly-looking heart- and have them only smile. Some people know what this means and for those people I feel the greatest pity for I cannot imagine how empty their worlds must be like. In fact, my heart hurt for them because for a long time I did know what that was like. I appreciate the friends I have so much now because of those times.

Friendship is a slow thing but that's because it can't be rushed. That used to frustrate me like crazy when I had no friends, when I would look jealously at the girls' table and feel my heart ache for what they had. But... The result of that slowness is something beautiful. Even when I went to sleepaway camp for a short two weeks, when I felt some of the deepest, most beautiful connections I ever had, it wasn't rushed. Our connection came in moments where we bore our hearts to each other. Moments where we spoke of what we could never speak of back home.

I've been wanting to write this for a long time, particularly because of the effects (good ones) that my friends have had on me. In the past couple of weeks, I have come more to treasure my best friend as well as our little circle of friends. I don't even know all of them that well but they make me laugh and smile so that's all that really countrs. They get me started on a good note.

I really do think they've saved me this year, one friend in particular. There's nothing I look forward to more than meeting up with her at the end of the day, as well as the other friend she's introduced me to. Maybe that sounds cheesy or creepy but... It's the truth. No matter how stressful my day has been or how my brain has been basically put through the shedder by all of the work that I've done, I always leave with a smile on my face.

About a week and a half ago, I was switching my Math course. I was put in one of my original Math class because of the mistake of my incompetent (for many other reasons) Math teacher. There, at least, I was finally feeling in control of things. But then I found out I had to take four years of Math instead of the required three and that I would be at a disadvantage for the SAT. This Math class was quick in pace and I was terrified that I would be drowning in it. Of course, I was freaking out about it and as I got closer I felt a panic attack coming on (you know, pounding heart, shortness of breath, sick stomach, tightness in my chest. That sort of loveliness). She gave me the sweetest note and it made me smile as I walked up the stairs. I didn't start to get the panic attack until I neared closer.

I had told her a couple days beforehand about my anxiety disorder and how I would need meds. She didn't look at me strangely or act awkwardly. The next day, she gave me a hug and asked me when I would be taking them.

Eventually she would have her own bad day. I won't embellish on the details because they aren't mine to dish out but... I hope that she was helped in the same way that she helped me, that I benefited her somehow. She did apologize to me for snapping at me and being upset but... It wasn't her fault. That's just the way things are when someone feels overwhemed by everything. Maybe it's not necessarily saying the right thing but just being there for that person.

At least we were there for each other. I'm not sure where I would be without her note or her support. I'm not sure where I would be if I did not unload the things that I have told her somewhere. Maybe some people may be luckier than others in terms of what they suffer but... We all need someone like that in this world.

A friend. They are that oh-so-important sustenance that keeps us going in this world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The "Protect" Life Act

They call it protecting life. Protecting "babies". Which I'm sure they would have a splendid time doing when it is dead inside of its hemorrhaging mother.

The "Protect Life Act" has been passed by the House of Representatives. For this to become a law, it has to be passed by the Senate. If this does become passed by the Senate, the President can veto it (which he plans to do, thank God).

This has been called the "Let Women Die Act" and rightfully so. Under this act, a hospital (federally funded or otherwise) does not have to provide an abortion to a woman or even have to refer her to someone who will provide her one. No exceptions. If a woman is about to die (which would result in the death of the fetus, obviously), it still doesn't matter. The only person who would save her life would be God.

"But," the pro-lifers cry, "it and rape/incest and the mother's life being at stake only make up one percent of abortion! You're taking this out of proportion." Yeah, this is another reason I hate statistics. It's only one percent unless she's you or related to you. Then it matters (seriously, every person matters in a tragedy. That, however, is a blog post for another day). The fact that they're are making no exceptions and think that no exceptions should be made is scary. I'll get back to this later, however. I'll make the pro-choice argument first and that will follow.

Before I begin, I would like to lay out fetal development. First comes conception/ fertilization, obviously; I assume I don't have to lay that one out. At this point the baby is a zygote. It will remain so for four days until it becomes a blastocyst. After it turns into an embryo* which arises from either the first mitotic tear (when fertilization of oocyte or female germ cell in reproduction) or any other process that initiates the development that becomes organized. Then, of course, it becomes a fetus during the ninth period from fertilization when the organs begin to grow at a rapid pace until it reaches nine months. At nine months, of course, it becomes a baby (or earlier. After the second trimester, it is possible for the fetus to survive outside of the womb).

As a zygote and blastocyst, it is literally a mass of cells. Most miscarriages happen around this time period and, because it is only visible by microscope, go unobserved. At four weeks, the face and neck of the embryo are just beginning to become evident while the heart and blood vessels begin to develop and vital organs are beginning to form. It still has its tail. Type "pig (or reptile) embryo four weeks" and follow it with "human embryo four weeks" (make sure it's actually at four weeks. Google will just pick up on the word "embryo" and might even show ultrasounds of fetuses) and it will be difficult to see a noticeable difference. At this point, a pregnancy test would turn positive. At eight weeks, the embryo is a half an inch in size. It has some human features such as limbs, ears, eyelids and some nose but is still pretty undeveloped. At the end of the first trimester (twelve weeks), the fetus will be two inches, be able to move and have a heartbeat. This will be obviously human and so is usually featured on gross abortion pictures sent by pro-lifers (those are usually second-trimester fetuses though).  It is important to note that 90% of occur prior to this and a woman is unable to get an abortion without the permission of a physician.
It kind of disturbs me that we are electing politicians who are scientifically illiterate. Yes, it is a human. Yes, it is alive. It can barely be considered a person think/ be aware of its surroundings and circumstance, survive away from its human host (a.k.a. its mother) or even breathe.

I'm a fourteen year old girl. I should not be more literate on the topic on both sides than the average politician and I should have much less sense. But no. Somehow it seems that I am the only one who has looked at both sides to formulate my opinion and I did this all at the mercy of my computer without any real research (perhaps it is my being open-minded and unbiased on the issue. I actually was pro-life at one point). Wow. These people are making decisions with less knowledge than me (besides what their pastor or priest told him) that affect real women and real families.

An embryo/fetus, by technical definition, is a parasite. It feeds off of the resources of its host, cannot survive without the host and can impact her health and body in a negative way. Obviously, a pregnancy can cause great joy for those expecting and for those people it's a gift. However, this is not the case for all by any means. For many, an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy can bring about a slew of unwanted emotions and consequences. If she does not want to deal with the emotional repercussions that carrying the baby to full term, then by no means should she have to deal with it. If she wants an abortion, then it should be up to her and not the government to get one.

These types of acts have real and profound consequences. Even if the woman's life is not directly at risk, her life could still be put at risk. Let's say she's a married mother (contrary to popular belief, most women who get abortions already have a child and only one-fifth of women who get abortions are teenagers) from the rural South who just got laid off from her blue-collar job. The nearest hospital is miles away. Now, imagine she is told, "Sorry, the doctors here are pro-life." There are no other local hospitals. She has two kids and a husband to feed; she cannot pay for prenatal care or for the raising of an additional child. The chances of her resorting to an abortion by her own hands or by the hands of some back-alley abortionist are high. A procedure that is virtually risk-free at a hospital is now very dangerous indeed.

That's bad enough. But then... Then there's that clause. The clause that gives the Protect Life Act its name. The woman could be dying but it wouldn't matter. If the hospital does not want to perform an emergency abortion then they don't have to.

They don't matter though. They're one percent. Only one percent. One percent means it probably isn't going to happen to you or even happen often enough so it doesn't matter. Of course, never mind the rape/incest (it does include them) and the dying women. No. A fetus still takes precedent over them.

Like I said, one percent matters. Every death is a tragedy, especially if it's preventable. This law is still putting women at risks no matter how it's looked at. It's saying that fetuses are more important than the women that carry them. That women are just baby-carriers in God's eyes (pro-lifers can be atheists and secularists but not usually). It's relevant to point out that approximately two-thirds of all abortion protesters are men. One hundred percent of those men will never have to make that decision.

People are saying you have the right to practice your religion. To not have to violate what you believe in. I really, really don't care about other people's religion. If someone wants to practice a religion, whatever. The minute they force that on someone else or it infringes on other people's rights (especially their lives) then I have absolutely no tolerance for that. It is also relevant to point out that the Bible says nothing on abortion, with a few Old Testament passages that could be interpreted as pro-choice so you can't even say that (there is one where a man's shove induces a miscarriage and he has to pay a fine. There are so many things wrong with that but hey, he didn't have to die like he would if he had killed another man).

These people are willing to let women die just to uphold their disgusting, warped, sexist beliefs. They aren't pro-life; they're just sick and misogynistic.

This act still has a long way to go in becoming a law but the fact that it came that much closer... That's frightening.  It also shows how Roe vs. Wade is still constantly under attack, even more than five decades later. The modern feminist movement may be flawed but the issues it presents... They're still here.

The issue is far from over and we will have to keep fighting until it is. The lives of women and of those who care about them depend on it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Beauty of an Open Mind

With an open mind, your eyes are opened to see the possibilities and mysteries that this world contains. Unfortunately, there are so many in this world that go through life colorblind. Not only can those colorblind people barely register shades of gray but they are also unable to see the beautiful varieties of color that exist in this world. For that, I pity them.

I remember seeing Jesus Camp, a documentary that is basically about Bible camp and fundamentalist Christians (a.k.a Christian dominionists. Look it up; it's freaking scary). The parents were saying how they weren't brainwashing their kids and that it was the kid's choice. I thought of those kids like a fish in a fish tank. These parents put them in this fake, controlled, little bubble (or to fit the analogy, fish tank). It's like they then painted the fish tank black. Maybe the kids think it's their choice but is it really your choice when you don't have any other options? It's like asking this fish what their favorite color is. They would say black of course, because they don't know that any other colors exist. They aren't coerced but they still are not given a choice in the manner. They are molded into this one thing and they can't see any other way. That, to me, is the saddest thing in the world.

A few weeks ago, this girl at my lunch table was going on a rant about Obama and how this country went to shit when he became President. I responded to her rant, trying to make her see reason. I understand that going forward with a narrow-minded, passionately held view would not be helpful so I tried to give in a little with her viewpoint while contrasting it with a more objective viewpoint.
Yet it scared me how sure she was of what she was saying and how she adamantly refused to see the ambiguity of the situation. Telling from the arguments she was presenting and the vagueness of them, I knew that her thoughts were not her own. I asked her if she got her information from Fox News or from her parents.
"My parents," she answered.

"Don't you look at the sources for this?"

"My parents do."

"Do you look at the sources?"

"Don't you believe in your parents? I guess that's why you're an atheist."

This lead to a whole other discussion about religion, which I will not include for the sake of relevancy.

This doesn't just relate to religion, though (even though religion does teach one a way of thinking that carries on to other aspects of life. Almost all of the religious people I've met have emotionally based reasoning on just about everything else in their lives besides God and religion). Yes, I am an atheist, but that's really only a small aspect of who I am; it only relates to the bigger picture that is my skepticism/ love of the truth and my secular humanist beliefs.

Religion and politics are two different completely things and the only thing that connects them are how taboo it is to bring either of them up while in company with another person. She was right about one thing, though. They both reveal how you approach general conversation, your outlook on life and so on. It's pretty obvious to see who is open to the opinions of others and can be talked to and who is mired by their own ardent beliefs in such discussions.

I included the above conversation because I think it shows the effects of close-mindedness and why exactly people are close-minded. So many close-minded people have had their beliefs so drilled in their head (by parent, news source and other influences) that they cannot see past it.

An open mind is, in my opinion, a critical thing to have in this world. Without the ability to have an open mind, one is rendered unable to comprehend anyone else's opinion and therefore unable to compromise with them. I also think it allows you to closely examine each and every viewpoint without bias. That, of course, is beneficial because it allows you not to get sucked into things so easily.

An open mind allows you to see the various nuances and complexities on a subject. This is especially important when approaching a complicated subject. When you approach a complex topic with a simpleminded viewpoint, it only makes you look ridiculous and your opinions are rendered invalid and unworthy of discussion.

By seeing these various viewpoints and perspectives, you are given a greater understanding of your fellow peers and of yourself even. For example, I was just having a conversation with a friend on a certain teacher of ours. This teacher is generally dismissed as mean and too strict by most students. However, by analyzing his behaviors and trying to see things from his perspective, it is easy to see that what he is doing what he does not out of malice but with the intention of benefiting us and that he is trying to do his job in the most effective way possible.

Narrow-minded people live life without truly tasting its flavors or even ever fully understanding the people that they interact with. That, to me, is terrible. Not only is their behavior terrible to them but terrible to the world. These are the people who start wars, disown their children and get brainwashed by persons of power (e.g. dictators, pedophile priests, parents). By failing to be open to other possibilities and the possibility that your belief is wrong, you are doing a disservice not only to yourself but to others.

Overall, an open mind is the only way to approach the world. It is easy to fall prey to this kind of thinking but to do so will help no one.

I challenge all readers to open their eyes and not to just accept a belief without examining the other. You might be surprised with what you'll find.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Stigma of Mental Illness

From the beginning of time, it's been there and has been haunting humanity as a terrible enigma. Throughout the centuries, solutions have ranged from avoidance to asylums to exorcisms. That thing is mental illness. While mentally ill people have gained more rights over the years, there is still a stigma and general ignorance towards it.

When people think of mental illness, they usually think of some random homeless man ranting on the street or something of that illness. However, while schizophrenia is certainly a severe mental illness, mental illnesses range in seriousness and can be anything from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) to Type 1 Bipolar Disorder. Mental illnesses are defined by NAMI (National Alliances on Mental Illness) as "...medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning." According to WebMD, mental disorders affect 22% of adults each year.

It was, and still is, a great hobby for me to look up mental illnesses and their symptoms and then catalog them in my brain. For a long time, I seriously considered being a therapist. Of course, I come from the emotional standpoint as well as the medical one. Researching mental illness has made me more aware of the challenges that these people experience every day. Now, however, I come from a different perspective. Today I speak as a sufferer of a mental illness.

Okay that seems a bit much. It feels kind of insane to say that I have a mental illness, though if you were to look up "mental illness" on Google it would be on every site that comes up as a result.

According to the psychiatrist I saw, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Ironically, I did e-mail a link about GAD to my mother at one point, but at the time I did not meet the criteria (I figured that it was just me blowing things out of proportion like always. At different points in my life, I've suspected that I had social phobia disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder*, and selective mutism. Basically that all adds up to hypochondria, folks).

In case you do not have an encyclopedic brain like mine, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a mental disorder where one obsesses over little things over and over long after the situation has passed and blows them out of proportion. This causes panic attacks (though, as the doctor told me, I do NOT suffer from Panic Disorder) and sometimes people with GAD suffer these symptoms for no apparent reason.

The reason I'm mentioning this on my blog is to erase the shame and stigma of mental illness. I always thought it was wrong how society treated mental illness and swore that I was going to be a part of the solution to fix those negative feelings. On the other end of that spectrum, I'm not going to be like this one girl I used to know who obsessed over her peanut allergy and acted like it was the worst thing in the world. It may be no one's business and I may not have the obligation to tell everyone about it, but I'm not going to hide ashamed in some dark corner. I'm not. This is something that's been seriously affecting my life for a long time and now I just have a name for it. By talking about my own struggles, maybe I can help someone else out who is going through the same thing. This won't be something I'll talk to someone about at random, but if I'm asked I won't lie about it.

There's some other people in my life with similar issues as mine who do not have the same attitude as I do. One of those people is downright ashamed of it and is calling it embarrassing. This person is refusing to get help and watching him struggle breaks my heart. Maybe it's for him and people like him who I'm speaking out for here.

Having a mental illness is no more or less embarrassing than having a heart condition or asthma. The brain is just another organ and when someone has a mental illness, it means that that organ isn't working right. Obviously, having a mental illness has a different impact on one's life than having a heart condition is. It still doesn't mean that having a mental illness is a weakness or a defect in someone's character; either way it's nothing to be done about it.

Now, when I did get the diagnosis, part of me was embarrassed. A part of me is embarrassed and reluctant to write this down. Another part of me is worrying like crazy about everything. True to my nature, I'm worrying about what this will mean for my life and my education and everything (even though the answer has been blatantly obvious already).

So, yeah. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and I'm getting help for it. It is what it is. I'm not a different person; everyone already knew that I'm a perfectionist and a nitpicker and that I worry too much about everything.

Think about it. 22% is a little more than one in five so you probably know someone with a mental illness. It seriously isn't that big of a deal and it's stupid how so many people are making it out to be one.

I hope the day will come when this stupid, harmful ignorance is shattered for good.

*Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder should NOT be confused with OCD. It being under the set of personality disorders, it is a little different. Look it up if you so choose.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shorehouse Memories

It's a tiny house in a town virtually unknown. Wetlands that faced near decimation stand across from it, an mini-island that my sister and I coined Minnow Island. My family and I call it the shorehouse though in reality the waters that we wade in are technically considered a lagoon. We have went there every weekend of the summer since I was about six years old and it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon. Now, as fall approaches, we have went down there for officially the last time this season.

My feelings for it are quite mixed. In good times, the shorehouse can be a place of laughter and of joy in its most simplistic form. In the less good times, it can be a place of endless boredom and one that keeps me away from my friends. Still the shorehouse is my second home no matter what, and leaving it always brings about a feeling of melancholy.

This weekend was one of those incredibly dull ones. My parents talked to the neighbors next door while my sister and I were in the house trying desperately to find something to do. Our boredom did get us some sister bonding moments and paint-splattered fingers (the same fingers that painted the demented-looking pumpkins sitting on the porch of our year-long house).

Somewhere along the years, I have grown up. The little girl who curiously combed the island for whatever she could find is not the same girl who has just entered high school. The shorehouse has been a place of escape for so long. In the shorehouse, it is so easy to leave any troubles at the side of the road.

Still, as I left Sunday, I was filled with a melancholy. Though the school year has long since started, leaving the shorehouse meant that summer had officially ended. I associate my shorehouse with summer and all of the sweetness that comes with it. Saying goodbye to the shorehouse for the year was like saying goodbye to a time in my life. It's so easy then to groan at the prospect of coming down, at the prospect of another dull weekend but... When the season's gone, it's gone and that's when it's too late to get that time lost back.

And oh summer at the shorehouse... Summer the taste of a virgin piña colada, the feel of an afternoon wade into the water and of the murk between my toes, the sight of sunlight dancing on the water. I will miss that simple beauty

I will come back though. In a few months' time, another school year will have passed and another time of my life will have ended too. Then I shall wade in the waters without thought once again.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Public Speaking

When the teacher announced that we were doing presentations, I groaned inside. Presenting. It's that dreaded thing that we have to do for some stupid reason when writing an essay would be much better. But no. They insist. I know that my mom's like, "You'll need this. You're lucky that you're being given the opportunity to do this." You know what I think though? I think that so many teachers just like to see us squirm. With their eyes upon you intently, looking for flaws the way you talk and what's on the board ahead of you, that's very easy to do.

I walked up to the front of the room, my body shaking and my heart pounding so loudly that I felt like that crazy man in Edgar Allan Poe's The Telltale Heart. Like I said in my previous post, public speaking... Well, it's enough to scare the piss out of me (I'm not just saying that. It literally almost has a couple of times). It's one thing when it's in front of my mom and my sister but in front of my judgmental classmates and the teacher who is analyzing my performance for a grade...

I didn't focus on them. I'm not sure I really focused on anything but the window in the back of the room that showed the row of lockers. Somehow I stumbled through my presentation, the heat of the glares upon me, and the presentation ended. It was almost as if my brain had went on automatic, some sort of survival mode or instincts. Fight-or-flight to be more exact but with me fighting my nerves.

So I did it. I did it and I have gained an experience and something to be proud of. That's something to gain at least.

I know that I did terribly but I've decided not to care about my grades so much anymore. My grades are just letters; my GPA is just a number. It may be my pass into college but it doesn't define me and I doubt it's even an indicator of how smart I am. So many times in my life I have taken a test and I have gotten an A, no studying involved. But you know what? Within the next month, I have forgotten the information entirely. All of the facts that I learned were meaningless pieces of vocabulary and facts that I crammed into my head, facts that I will never again apply. Which is a shame. My younger self failed to see the bigger picture that those pieces of information formed, the bigger picture that could be learned from learning that information and anything useful I could have gained from that was lost with it. Those teachers who make such a big deal from the book and about getting good grades... They don't get it either and the sad thing is that they've lived their whole lives without getting it.

Basically, I'm stating the above because every time that the teachers make you give a presentation you actually learn something. You get that bigger picture, the piece that you will actually apply. Presenting, however terrifying and terrible it is for me, actually teaches me about myself.

Of course, I still swear that it was designed to make it as painful as possible. I swear that some teachers are gleeful watching squirming students, getting some creepy sadistic high off of it (think Brother Leon in The Chocolate War kind of teachers). I still think that it's made of pure evil, a representation of all of the horrible hurtles I have ever faced. Still, isn't that kind of what life is?

At least I'm not the only one with fear of public speaking. My intense fear of failure may be a hard find among teenagers but not the public speaking. Nope. Everyone is afraid of public speaking, except for people who have done it so often that they are used to it and the people who were born with that natural gift to work with and around other people (damn those people! I envy them).

I will have to do this again. Again and again and again throughout my high school and college years and maybe once I grow older too. I doubt it will get easier for me, quite frankly but I'm working on it.

Public speaking. That age old enemy. I will have to face it, my mother has faced it countless times and my children will have to face it too. It is a necessary evil that we will all have to get used to, because, as stated above, I will have to face it countless times in my life. This is just part of the bigger picture, the picture of my life. It's like looking my demon in the face, something a lot of people don't get to do.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Being a "Novice"

"Novice". That was the word that they had called my group last night as they separated the masses into two at the debate workshop I attended last night.

I had watched the mock debate with wide eyes and a bit of a nervous twitch. The two debaters were juniors and far from "novices". They debated with rigor and professionalism that simultaneously wowed and unnerved me. With the speed at which they talked, the loud buzz of the air conditioner in the background and all of the philosophical jargon that they used, I could barely understand them.

After the mock debate was over, they split us up. I was put with the "novice" group instead of the more experienced one. We all went into one room where one teacher talked to us about debate and what it was all about, particularly Lincoln-Douglas debates (an old acquaintance I knew back in seventh grade recommended I do that. She's a sophomore now) and things became a little less confusing. I know that in time none of it will be confusing at all and that one day I might even counsel confused newcomers. Debate seems to require that I do a lot of things that go out of my comfort zone but I'm okay with that. I refuse to let my fears stop me from doing something that I know that I will like.

This ties into a greater theme of life, however. It is the feeling of being a novice, new at things. Trying something new requires you to take a risk and to take a step out of your comfort zone. Of course it's scary and it's okay to be scared. In life, one just can't let fear stop them from achieving things. So even though it scares me, I know that I will learn things and that I will kind of like it once I get used to it.

Speaking alone scares me, even if it is just one person in a conversation. Public speaking, speaking to a group of people without anyone to save me, absolutely terrifies me. I feel like I'm utterly failing and that everyone is looking at me and thinking how terrible I am at what I'm doing. Even beforehand, I imagine failing and it's enough to keep me up at night and make me so sick to my stomach that I can't eat. While I learned a lot at this workshop, it did make me even more scared. Why? Because I understood what it meant. I understood that debate means putting yourself out there and trying your best.... And still having the possibility of losing. Losing terribly, in fact. The odds of losing terribly are much greater when you are up against an upperclassman, someone who has been in it a lot longer than you. Losing, of course, translates into failing for me. As much as I've been getting better at being easier on myself, I can still beat myself up terribly over failure and rip my own self-esteem to shreds. Just the idea of doing that to myself fills me with dread and an incredible nervousness.

Why would I do that to myself, though? Because I have to get over this. I cannot let my fear of failure hold me back in life. When you try something new, you are bound to make mistakes. In my worst moments, I would translate that to absolute failure. But it isn't.

It would be so easy to quit. So easy to just never come to another debate meeting after this. But then I would always wonder what it would be like and I would kick myself forever. This is an opportunity that I have to take advantage of while I still can.

Trapped in my anxiety, I have done the stupidest and most irrational things.

One is one's own best advocate and yet I constantly put myself down. I am constantly a disempowerment to myself; I make myself feel stupid and worthless and just an utter failure. There are so many moments that I wish I could take back, so many moments where I have worried and not truly lived. There are so many moments where I have held myself back from things that could have made me proud of myself and happy because I was afraid. Consider life a big pool of water. I am the swimmer but so often I feel a hand press down my head and pin me under the water, leaving me struggling to get a gasp of air. That very hand has been the other side of myself, punishing me for all of the things that I have not done right.
Besides that, I've also had stupid little moments. I have forced myself to stay silent in class or in social situations because I am terrified of saying the wrong thing even when my mind is filled with the urge to say something. One time when I was doing my English homework I didn't do above the minimum because I was scared of being given more opportunities to say things that would make me sound stupid. Because I only did the minimum, he actually took off a half a point. I've had moments when I haven't even done my homework because I was terrified of screwing it up.

Trying something new is terrifying. Even if people don't have the stupid anxiety that I have, it's still scary. To anyone who's reading this, please take risks. Take as many risks as you can. Despite what I've told myself in my worst moments, it's okay to make mistakes. It's not okay to refuse to try.

So I am a novice for now. One day, with practice and with hard work, I will become what they call "experienced". That day will not come unless I take a risk and try this thing that is so new.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Emergency Procedures

You're in a class, most likely, before and during it all. The teacher is talking and you are bored, waiting for the class to break and the distraction to come. Then... It does. Suddenly the announcements come on and it's your principal speaking. "Today we will do a drill for [insert emergency procedure name here]," he or she says. They continue talking, saying something along the lines of this, "The safety of our students and staff is our utmost priority. This event is unlikely but we need to be prepared anyway and take this seriously. Any students who is disruptive should be sent to their grade level principal immediately after the drill." Of course no one takes this seriously and they go on their merry way to the corner of the room or outside the hallway or whatever smiling and laughing all the while about how stupid it is. The teacher probably does not take it seriously, giving half-hearted shushes to the kids in the corner before turning and talking to the other teacher in the room (who is either an assistant teacher or the teacher of a class that just happens to be a window, depending on the situation).

We happened to do two of these today so that we would waste as little time as possible. Instead of making me feel safe and secure, it only made me feel scared and got my mind thinking.
I'll address the lockdown drill first, or as they would say in elementary school, plumber-in-the-building (which makes me wonder what would happen if the very little kids, whom were told this so that they wouldn't freak out when this happened, saw a legit plumber in the building).

The lockdown drill is what we would do if an intruder/crazed gunman was in the building, or if someone with a gun or other weapon was outside of the building. In all of the schools I've been at, the following has happened. First, the teacher tells all of us to cram in a corner. Being as I always seem to be the slowest and the one farthest away from said corner, I always get there last and am quite visible from the window. The teacher usually yells at me and I scooch even closer to boys who are disgusted at my very presence. Then he or she turns off the lights and locks and lamely barricades the door. At least in this procedure, the teacher has always been silent (usually because no other teacher is in the room. Oddly enough, I don't recall ever being in a classroom with two teachers in this drill, but only when the other drill I will later mention occurs).

I have multiple problems with this. One, if the crazed gunman was a student at the school (or had been a student), he would know that there are actual kids in the classroom. My second problem is that even if he wasn't and never was, he would start to pick up on the pattern after a few classrooms. Locking the door is futile because all of the classrooms have a sort of glass pane so he could break the glass and reach his hand to unlock the door (I imagine most teachers would not risk their lives to go there and try to stop him, with the exceptions of a few heroic ones. Most teachers do not love their students that much or even particularly like them). If he did this, then he would probably burst his way in and then kill us all (most adult men have the strength to push past a chair). Hopefully the police would come there by then but probably not.

My third problem, this being the greatest in my book because it's the most probable, is that all the procedures would be shot to hell in a real emergency making all of this completely useless. Very few people are able to be calm in the face of danger, teachers included. People would most likely panic and attempt to run out of the building in a mass herd. Being as I am weak even by the physical standards of the average female, I would be more likely to be trampled or smooshed to death than to be killed by the actual source of the emergency.

On the bright side, if there ever is a crazed gunman, he's probably not going to be able to kill more than thirty people. Another thirty more might be injured and I'm being generous with that number. There are about two thousand kids in my high school. So, if there ever was a crazed shooter, the chances of me being injured or dead as a result of it are relatively low. As long as you did not personally piss the shooter off at some point in your life and are not in his general vicinity at the time of the shooting, it would be probably not be you who was shot.

Telling from all the above reasons, it is obvious that the protocol is futile. Now that I have basically decimated the basis for that procedure, I shall move on to shelter-in-place.

Ah, the good ol' shelter-in-place. This is the one that teachers don't even pretend to take seriously. It's what we would do in the case of some disaster involving nature. Never mind that my school is not built to withstand a tornado or earthquake or even a fire. Nope. Somehow moving our location or staying in place will help us. Yeah, okay. That's the first reason I think shelter-in-place is useless.

In the situation that it was a noxious gas, I don't see how moving would help us. Sure we might be away from the vents but gas from outside could easily make it's way inside. Also if it was from the inside, we'd still be in the building.

Secondly, we would all panic and there would be a mass herd like I mentioned above with the lockdown drill. There would be no "order". In the situation of emergency, people have probably forgotten an annual drill that no one took seriously in the first place and would lose their wits.  Stampede or natural disaster, it would most likely result in a dead me.

It's pretty obvious why shelter-in-place is useless too.

Telling from the above article, it's pretty obvious that I've put a lot of thought into this. I am a paranoid child and I worry about everything. There's ample proof for this too. Just recently, it went dark in the cafeteria for no reason and I swore that I saw someone turn the lights out. I thought that someone had turned off the lights so that they could shoot more of us. Nope. It was simply a power outage and the lights came on after a minute in the cafeteria.

Still, despite my paranoia, I think I have made a case here. I know that the odds of this happening are low but that it could happen. That's why these procedures happen. I still think that it's a waste of time, however, because it wouldn't help even if something like this did actually happen.

In conclusion, these are useless, futile procedures and only disrupt and take time away from learning. There's no real way to prepare for something like this.

However, it may be useless but I got to miss half of Math class. That makes it all worth it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


It's the feeling as if you are flying as you, of feeling icy wind slap your cheeks as you spread your wings. It's the racing with your sister. It's the wobbling around like you are taking your first steps as you find the courage to put the walker to the side and watching the six-year-old next to you do it with a thoughtless perfection (as well as with an assortment of tricks that you will never learn). That is the beauty of ice-skating in a rink.

I first went ice-skating when I was seven at a party but I don't remember liking it as much as I did later on. I can barely remember that so I'm not sure if that really counts for much. Anyway the first time I really went skating was in seventh grade. I was hanging out with a friend and somehow she and her family ended up taking me to the ice rink. I got a pair of rentals, a walker and I nervously stepped into the ice rink with her. I was the only one with a walker there. Even my friend's little sister was skating as easily as she was walking (she probably had been doing it ever since she could walk too or pretty close). It was hard for me at first but with her and her dad by my side, I began to get the hang of it.

I was sore as hell the next morning. I had also developed a huge bruise on my knee, the result of it banging up against the walker as I careened out of control. They were battle scars however, showing a fortitude that I did not I possessed. I was proud of having mastered something physical so quickly especially considering my clumsiness and lack of grace.

I would come back. The next few times were with them but eventually I convinced my family to go to the rink. My parents were probably just thrilled that I had found a fun way to get some exercise without the pressure and bad feelings that the treadmill brings.

Unlike with so many other things I've done, my eagerness for it did not waver. I went more and more and more, and it became increasingly apparent how serious I was becoming about it.

I have yet to get my parents out on the ice but I have gotten my sister to skate with me. Today, she skated for the first time without her walker (which was especially impressive considering that our family took a summer hiatus from skating).

It's much easier and much more beneficial to get your exercise in ways that cannot be measured by calories and that are fun. I do think that Portia DeGeneres, better known by Portia de Rossi, was right in that regard (in case you do not know this, Portia de Rossi battled eating disorders for twelve years and issues with over exercising and has stated this in her memoir). While exercising on a treadmill makes me feel shitty both physically and mentally, ice-skating brings out attributes of exercise that gym teachers harp about. It makes me feel energized, confident and fulfilled.

Ice-skating is revolutionary for me. I'll never feel passionate about it like I do for writing obviously but it's proved that sports/ physical exercise CAN be fun after all. That is an absolutely great feeling.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

One in four women will be affected in their lifetime. One in four teens- both boys and girls- will be impacted by the time they graduate from high school. This is the sad reality of domestic violence and dating abuse, of a relationship where one partner uses various methods of violence and intimidation in order to control the other partner.

Today is October 1st, the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For the first half of the day, I volunteered at the walk that my local domestic violence organization held. I'm not sure how much I did to help with it quite frankly but it did get me thinking about the topic. I'm sure it got the other participants thinking about it too, which was its purpose.

As this organization that I volunteer for commonly points out, domestic violence is not just a woman's issue but a community issue. This isn't only to say that men get abused too (they do) but that abuse has a ripple effect. The victim isn't the only one affected but her (I'm using female pronouns because women are the most common victims of domestic violence) children and her parents and her siblings and the friends of all of the group mentioned. Not to mention the employer and their health care providers, though that's rather minimal in comparison.

I don't think I can stress enough how important of an issue this is. One in four means that if it's not you, it's someone you know (you may not think you know someone but trust me you do). One in four means that it could be you and that you are not invincible.

Domestic violence/ dating violence does not discriminate. Its victims are of all ages, races, creeds, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and genders. It strikes at random and often comes unexpectedly; this is the reason that most victims choose to stay in the relationship even after the first incident.

Unfortunately, domestic violence and dating violence are deep-rooted problems and there is no easy solution for them. It's a cycle; often the perpetrators have experienced abuse themselves or witnessed it at home. By spreading awareness and offering support for victims, hopefully we can change society's perceptions of it, save lives and prevent other tragedies from occurring in the future.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, seek help immediately. There are emergency shelters that can help the victim flee from the abuser while trying to leave (or another secondary location if the victim is male) and there are also legal actions that can be taken. This is no small matter and should be taken seriously. Ultimately, leaving is something that only the victim can do and while support and a listening ear is crucial, it is important to recognize that. Please note that leaving is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship and that all precautions should be taken in order to ensure the victim's safety.

I would like to point out that abuse isn't just physical.  Verbal, emotional and sexual abuse are just as serious though they aren't as easy for an outsider to identify. Ultimately, abuse is anything that is used by one partner to control and intimidate the other.

Verbal/ emotional abuse includes but is not limited to yelling, name-calling, blaming, shaming, isolating, abusing the victims pets and/or children, threatening, and restricting money/basic necessities.

Sexual abuse is not as well known by the general public but it happens too. Any situation where the victim is forced to participate in sexual activity that degrades them or is against their consent is sexual abuse. In all fifty states in the United States, rape by a spouse is still rape and can be prosecuted as such.

Regardless of the form, abuse is serious in all situations and needs to be treated as such.

This is a very important issue that needs to be addressed by society. Let's not be aware of domestic violence simply in the month of October but all year round.